How Much Were These Sports Teams Sold For?

Matt Haupert@@matthaupFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2014

How Much Were These Sports Teams Sold For?

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The pending sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer has dominated headlines this past month not only because of the controversy surrounding previous owner Donald Sterling, but also because of the jaw-dropping price of $2 billion.

    What is the significance of paying $2 billion for a franchise?

    What is the "normal" price for a team in the NBA? The NFL? Major League Baseball?

    How is it that two teams in Los Angeles have been sold for $2 billion in the past three years, while an NFL team once went for only $100?

    As it turns out, what goes on in the front office is often just as fascinating as what happens on the field.

LA Clippers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Price: $2 billion

    Year: 2014 (Pending)

    Buyer: Steve Ballmer

    Estimated Current Value: $575 million

    The Clippers and Ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stunned the NBA when they reached a recent deal for Ballmer to purchase the franchise from Donald Sterling for a staggering $2 billion. This price would shatter the previous record for the sale of an NBA franchise (a figure and team that might surprise you on the next slide). The Clippers are currently valued at only $575 million, which places them outside of the top 10 among NBA franchises, and nowhere near the top in their own city.

    Looks like things won't turn out so badly for Sterling after all.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Tom Lynn/Associated Press

    Team: Milwaukee Bucks

    Price: $550 million

    Year: 2014

    Buyer: Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry

    Estimated Current Value: $405 million

    The magnitude of the proposed sale of the Clippers does not become fully clear until you take a look at the previous most expensive sale in the history of the NBA: Earlier this year, the Milwaukee Bucks were sold to Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry for a whopping $550 million—pocket change compared to the Clippers deal. It's worth noting that while the Bucks sale was the most expensive ever, the team is currently estimated as the least valuable in the NBA.

Indiana Pacers

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Price: $11 million

    Year: 1983

    Buyer: Herb Simon

    Estimated Current Value: $475 million

    No NBA team was sold at a cheaper price than the Indiana Pacers just over 30 years ago. After spending only $11 million on the team in 1983, owner Herb Simon has since turned a monumental profit: While inflation has helped a bit, making $475 million off of an $11 million investment is a pretty good deal—and has made Simon one of the richest men in the NBA.

LA Dodgers

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

    Price: $2 billion

    Year: 2012

    Buyer: Magic Johnson, Guggenheim Partners

    Estimated Current Value: $2 billion

    Two years ago, Magic Johnson and his group, the Guggenheim Partners, made a huge splash by purchasing the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt for $2 billion. This more than doubled the previous record sale for a baseball team, which was set by Tom Ricketts and family when they purchased the Chicago Cubs for $845 million in 2009.

    The purchase didn't just set a baseball record, howeverno sports team in the world had ever gone for such a high price. The Dodgers topped world record holder Manchester United and the North American record holders, the Miami Dolphins.

New York Yankees

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Team: New York Yankees

    Price: $10 million

    Buyer: George Steinbrenner

    Year: 1973

    Estimated Current Value: $2.5 billion

    If the Dodgers sold for $2 billion, the New York Yankees must have gone for a comparable amount, right? Not exactly. When George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees back in 1973, he spent only $10 million—less than Herb Simon paid for the Pacers 10 years later (granted, without adjusting for inflation) and less than one percent of the amount Magic Johnson paid for the Dodgers.

    Turned out to be a pretty decent investment for Steinbrenner, who managed to turn the Yankees into the most valuable sports team on the continent with a net worth of $2.5 billion.

Oakland A's

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Team: Oakland A's

    Price: $180 million

    Year: 2005

    Buyer: Lewis Wolff

    Estimated Current Value: $495 million

    Baseball's most valuable franchise went for $10 million in 1973, and one of its least valuable franchises went for $180 million a few decades later. Even adjusting for inflation, the Yankees $10 million purchase was the equivalent of just over $50 million in 2005, a third of what the A's went for—a testament to the change in market for sports franchises over the years.

    The A's, however, are valued at almost $2 billion less than the Yankees. The financial shortcomings of the A's were made famous when Moneyball was published in 2003 and then turned into a feature film in 2011. Compared to the Yankees' $225 million spent on annual player expenses, the A's spend only $81 million, a statistic that puts Oakland at a constant disadvantage on the baseball field.

Manchester United

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Team: Manchester United

    Price: $1.47 billion

    Year: 2005

    Buyer: Malcolm Glazer

    Estimated Current Value: $2.8 billion

    Before the Dodgers and Clippers sales of the past few years, the most expensive purchase of a sports franchise was Malcolm Glazer's $1.47 billion takeover of Manchester United in 2005. Glazer, also the owner of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, initially bought 2.9 percent of the team's shares in 2003.

    Over the next two years, he gradually increased his stock in the team before taking over completely by buying 75 percent of shares in 2005. This was much to the chagrin of Man U fans, many of whom, according to Richard Goldstein of the New York Times, "ripped up season tickets and threatened to boycott the team’s merchandise, not appeased by a family statement saying the Glazers were 'avid Manchester United fans.'" Glazer passed away in May, leaving his teams to his family.

Miami Dolphins

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    J Pat Carter/Associated Press

    Team: Miami Dolphins

    Price: $1.1 billion

    Year: 2008

    Buyer: Stephen Ross

    Estimated Current Value: $1.1 billion

    The Dolphins became the most expensive team ever purchased in North America and the second-most expensive team ever purchased in the world when they were sold to Stephen Ross for $1.1 billion in 2008. This amount has since been dwarfed by the Dodgers and now, it seems, the Clippers.

    Since buying the team, Ross has worked hard to make football relevant in Miami and is currently planning to invest $400 million of his own money to renovate the stadium with the hopes of bringing the Super Bowl to Miami in 2018.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Team: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Price: $2,500

    Year: 1933

    Buyer: Dan Rooney

    Estimated Current Value: $1.1 billion

    In stark contrast to the billion-dollar sale of the Dolphins, the storied Pittsburgh Steelers were sold for only $2,500 way back in 1933. Its owner, Dan Rooney, was born in 1932. Seem odd? Rooney's father, Art Rooney, founded the team in 1933 as a gift for Dan on his first birthday.

    While most kids get a new onesie, Dan Rooney got himself a football team, which is still owned in the family today—only now, that $2,500 birthday gift has transformed into a $1.1 billion operation.

Chicago Bears

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Team: Chicago Bears

    Price: $100

    Year: 1920

    Buyer: George Halas

    Estimated Current Value: $1.3 billion

    Ever wanted to buy a football team for less than it costs to take your family out for a nice dinner? In 1920, George Halas, one of the founders of the NFL, paid $100 to purchase the Chicago Bears from A.E. Staley. Almost a century later, ownership hasn't changed, as Halas eventually passed the reins down to his daughter. Today, the team is worth $1.3 billion, making that $100 among the most profitable ever spent.

New Jersey Devils

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    Mel Evans/Associated Press

    Team: New Jersey Devils

    Price: $320 million

    Year: 2013

    Buyer: Josh Harris

    Estimated Current Value: $320 million

    The range of value in the NHL between the teams at the top and bottom of the list is absolutely staggering. The New Jersey Devils were the most recent team to be sold, going for $320 million last year, placing them around the middle of the pack. The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently the most valuable NHL club, worth $1 billion—the only billion-dollar team in the league. On the other end of the spectrum, however, the St. Louis Blues are currently valued at only $130 million.

    If you're lucky enough to win the lottery in the next few years, this list should give you a decent idea of how you might be able to spend it. But if you're like the rest of us and barely have a few bucks to spare—well, there's always the Bears.

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