By Klaus Kneale, Forbes.com
January 21, 2008
If the NFL were just about money, the Seattle Seahawks would never lose the Super Bowl. And they'd be playing the Miami Dolphins or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the championship.
Ranking the NFL by the fortunes of its owners, Paul Allen, who owns the Seahawks, is far and away the richest man associated with the league. His $16.8 billion, Microsoft-derived fortune is $2 billion larger than that of the next nine billionaire owners combined. The two runners-up, Malcolm Glazer, who owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Miami Dolphins' Wayne Huizenga each have net worths of $2.5 billion.
Obviously, money can't buy you everything. This year Allen's squad lost to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional playoffs, and the team lost the 2006 Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bucs finished first in the NFC South this year with a 9-7 record, but were promptly bumped out of the playoffs by the New York Giants.
And the Dolphins? They're the worst team in the league, finishing 1-15. Huizenga's trying to turn things around. He hired famed coach Bill Parcells to be the team's head of football operations and fired General Manager Randy Mueller and head coach Cam Cameron.
Still, despite the frustrations, owning a National Football League team can be a highly lucrative venture.
Just ask Robert Kraft, owner of the still-perfect New England Patriots. When Kraft bought the squad in 1994 for a then-record $172 million, the team was a faltering money loser, winning less than half its games since 1959. Kraft transformed them into one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. On the arm of star quarterback Tom Brady, the Pats won three Super Bowls and are a victory away from a perfect season.
The success made Kraft a billionaire. Unlike most other billionaire owners, nearly all of his $1.4 billion fortune is wrapped up in the Patriots, the third most valuable team in the NFL by our calculations. The rest comes from real estate and other investments, as well as the New England Revolution Major League Soccer team.
Jerry Jones is another true "football billionaire." Fiercely competitive, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys made his first fortune in natural gas in the 1970s after leading the Arkansas Razorbacks to victory in the Cotton Bowl in 1964. He bought the then-junky Cowboys for $158 million in 1989. Jones mentored the team, led by quarterback Troy Aikman and running back Emmitt Smith, to three Super Bowl championships in the 1990s, often standing on the sidelines over the shoulder of his head coaches.
Today the team is worth $1.5 billion before debt, and nearly all of Jones' $1.5 billion net worth is derived from the Cowboys. Jones recently sold $300 million worth of his personal real estate to help pay for the current construction of a new $1 billion Cowboys Stadium.
Yet all that money couldn't buy him happiness in the playoffs this year, as his Cowboys lost to the rival New York Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs. All season the Cowboys, led by star quarterback Tony Romo, sat atop the NFC, and were favorites to take on the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The loss humbled the often-meddlesome owner, who told reporters, "This is very hard" after the game.
Still, it's worth it. Despite the loss on the field, his Cowboys are the most valuable team in football.
The top five:
1. Paul Allen: Slideshow
2. Malcolm Glazer: Slideshow
3. Wayne Huizenga: Slideshow
4. Randolph Lerner: Slideshow
5. Robert McNair: Slideshow
• See more billionaire owners
The Football Billionaires
Updated on Monday, Jan 21, 2008 3:37 am, EST
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