If you were one of the original 20 cowboys that invested $1,000 to fund the start of the Professional Bull Riding circuit 21 years ago and remained an owner, your seed money would now be worth over $4 million. That works out to a 48 percent compound annual return. The return (excluding dividends) of the S&P 500 over that period is 8 percent.
In case you are wondering, the participants can make good money too if they perform well. Last season, PBR paid out $9 million to riders and $2 million to the bulls (well, OK, their owners).
PBR is now owned by 44 cowboys, management and Spire Capital. The handsome returns has drawn celebrities. John Elway, Wayne Grezkey and former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda joined the party by investing in bulls.
As best as I can tell, no U.S. sport has produced a return close to PBR over a similar period.
Even those other Cowboys. Jerry Jones paid $150 million ($140 million to the outgoing owners and $10 million for unfunded liabilities) for the Dallas Cowboys and the lease to the stadium in 1992 and the NFL team is now worth $2.3 billion.That makes the Cowboys the most valuable football team, but is just 12 percent annualized price appreciation (I will surrender the total return argument right here, as the Cowboys have gone from bleeding cash to generating operating income – in the sense of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization – of $250 million since Jones bought them).
Charles Johnson bought the San Francisco Giants for $100 million in 1993 and the Major League Baseball team's current value of $786 million equates to an 11 percent annual return. Nintendo of America purchased the Seattle Mariners for $100 million in 1992 and the baseball team has increased 10 percent in value annually.
Micky Arison's Miami Heat, led by LeBron James, have captured the last two National Basketball Association titles. Yet the Heat have increased 13 percent a year in value, to $625 million, since the billionaire paid down $32 million for the basketball team in 1988. Jerry Reinsdorf bought control of the Chicago Bulls for $16 million in 1985 and subsequently won six NBA titles with Michael Jordan. The Bulls are now worth $800 million, increasing in value 17 percent annually (though the Bulls are also immensely profitable).
Mixed Martial Arts? The Ultimate Fighting Championship, led by Dana White, has been incredibly successful. In 2001, brothers Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta bought UFC for $2 million. Flash Entertainment, an Abu Dhabi government investment company, bought 10 percent in 2009 in a deal that valued UFC at more than $2 billion. That works out to roughly a 140 percent annualized return over eight years – 2.9 times what PBR has achieved – as of four years ago.
But PBR , whose main sponsor is Ford Motor, sports a 20-year track record versus nine for UFC. Moreover, while PBR's revenue is still growing rapidly – to a record $70 million this year – UFC's growth has reportedly ceased.
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