This is a tough time in the world of sports. The recession has taken its toll, with many venues having difficulty selling tickets. And both the NBA and NFL are facing the possibility of lockouts in 2011. However, for some team owners, life is still pretty good. There are still many owners who are worth a fortune (and we're not counting celebrity sports owners like Jennifer Lopez and Gloria Estefan). Here are some of the wealthiest team owners in pro sports, with all wealth estimates courtesy of Forbes. (For more, check out Sports CEOs: For Better Or For Worse.)
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The Microsoft co-founder is a multi-sport titan: he owns the Seattle Seahawks football team, the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers and is part of a group of owners of the Seattle Sounders, a Major League Soccer team. His net worth is estimated at more than $12 billion, according to Forbes. Though he may be the wealthiest football team owner, he's certainly not the NFL's only billionaire owner. In fact, half of all NFL owners are in the billionaire's club.
Ross, a former lawyer who made his fortune in real estate, is relatively new to the world of sports ownership. A native of southern Florida, Ross bought a 50% share of the Miami Dolphins and their home, Sun Life Stadium, in 2008. A year later, he increased his share to 95%. He is worth an estimated $3.1 billion.
Kroenke became principal owner of the St. Louis Rams earlier this year, but like Allen, he doesn't limit himself to just one sport. He has also served as owner of the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids and Colorado Avalanche (when he took over ownership of the Rams, he transferred his interests in the Nuggets and Avalanche to his son). His estimated worth is $2.7 billion, much of it from real estate investments. He is married to Ann Walton, an heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune.
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The owner of the Dallas Cowboys is one the most recognizable and high-profile NFL team owners (he is also very active, serving on numerous NFL committees). Worth around $2 billion, Jones isn't afraid to write big checks to support his team, as proven by the team's mega-modern (and mega-expensive) new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The extroverted owner of the Dallas Mavericks initially made his fortune in technology, partly by launching companies he then sold to corporations like Yahoo! and CompuServe. Cuban, chairman of cable network HDNet and owner of Landmark Theatres, continues to support tech companies - he recently invested in an online security software company called BlueCava, and his net worth is estimated to be around $2.4 billion.
Comparatively speaking, baseball is short on wealthy owners. Two of the richest owners in recent history - the Yankees' George Steinbrenner and Carl Pohlad of the Minnesota Twins - passed away within the last two years. Red Sox owner John Henry, who made a fortune in the futures market before entering the sports market, is likely one of the richest baseball owners right now. In 2009, Forbes estimated his net worth at $1.1 billion - although, as head of a hedge fund company, his fortune is thought to have taken a hit as a result of the recession. He also heads up a sports investment group that recently bought the Liverpool soccer team.
The Bottom Line
Fans may not be filling the seats as much as usual this year, and lockouts loom on the horizon. But for a few lucky team owners whose fortunes continue to grow, life is like one endless championship season. (For more on the business of sports, see Who's Cashing In On Pro Sports Revenue?)
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