Escalating revenue from television rights and new stadiums, and recent collective bargaining agreements that have lowered the player's share of revenue have fueled a bull market in sports since Forbes began tracking team values in 1998.
Over the past 14 years the average value of an NFL team has increased 284%, to 1.11 billion. MLB teams are up 212%, to $605 million. NBA teams are worth an average of $509 million, 205% higher. And NHL teams have climbed 126%, to an average of $282 million. No longer the playground of old money and families that bought in at the early stages of these leagues, teams now have some of the most successful entrepreneurs and entertainers as investors, such as actor Justin Timberlake (Memphis Grizzlies), former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Dodgers), movie producer Peter Guber (Golden State Warriors, Dodgers) and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (Seattle Seahawks, Portland Tail Blazers), to name just a few.
The advantage of owning a valuable sports team isn't just the profit an owner can make when he sells. The equity in a team can be an avenue to even greater wealth when managed properly, like buying a Major League Soccer team, or starting a stadium hospitality business or television network. Owners also borrow against the value of their sports teams for their businesses outside of sports and their personal use.
Which owners sit on the biggest bounties? The 10 below have the most equity (enterprise value less debt) in their sports teams based on their ownership stakes in their MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL teams. These owners have the greatest financial clout among their peers.
1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): $1.83 billion
2. Kraft Family (New England Patriots): $1.37 billion
3. Dolan Family (New York Knicks and New York Rangers): $1.28 billion
4. Jeffrey Lurie (Philadelphia Eagles): $1.16 billion
4. Paul Allen (Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers): $1.16 billion
6. James Irsay (Indianapolis Colts): $1.11 billion
7. Steinbrenner Family (New York Yankees): $1.09 billion
8. York Family (San Francisco 49ers): $1.05 billion
9. Stan Kroenke (St. Louis Rams, Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets): $1.03 billion
10. Patrick Bowlen (Denver Broncos): $985 million.