It was a sad day back in 1996, when the City of Houston lost its professional football team. With Bud Adams moving the team to Tennessee, the football loving people of Houston were without a professional football team to cheer for since 1959. It was not a good time to be a football fan in Houston.
Luckily, they only had to wait a few years before the city would be awarded a new franchise thanks to the work done by Bob McNair to make it happen. It took quite a bit of money to make it happen as well; $700 million to be exact.
So how does a guy from the foothills of North Carolina come to afford to spend $700 million on a football team?
His professional career began in the auto and truck leasing business, but he didn't plant the seed that grew into his fortune until 1983, when he founded Cogen Technologies, which became one of the largest non-utility co-generators of electrical and thermal energy in the country. The company grew and expanded over the years until it became the largest privately-owned co-generation company in the world.
When he sold the company to Enron and CalPERS in 1999, they paid him $1.5 billion for it.
Having lived in Houston since 1960, he was familiar with the love the people of the city had for football so when he heard that the NFL was thinking of expanding he formed Houston NFL Holdings in 1998. On October 6, 1999, the league announced that McNair was being awarded a franchise that would start playing in 2002.
The team is now worth $2.5 billion. So in a little over a decade its value increased by over 250 percent!
Football is not the only way he makes his money these days. He still owns a pair of power plants, one in New York and the other in West Virginia. He is the chairman and CEO of the McNair Group, a financial and real estate firm. He also owns the Palmetto Partners, Ltd., a private investment company he has manage his equity investments.
McNair founded a biotechnology investment firm in 2000, Cogene BioTech Ventures. The company did well for a time, but with three of its principals dropping out the venture came to an end in 2006.
Having seen how profitable owning a sports team could be, McNair has shown some interest in acquiring another one, this time in soccer. Rumor has it he has had an interest in purchasing the Birmingham City. Last year he led a group that tried to purchase another team, Reading F.C.
So, how did he make his $2 billion fortune?
He formed a company that generated electricity and useful heat, solid it for a fortune, bought a football team, and continued to wisely invest his fortune to keep it growing.