It's the most wonderful time of the year! Football, both college and NFL, are in full swing. Saturdays and Sundays (and Thursdays and Mondays) are packed with gridiron goodness. And if you're like me, you might occasionally find yourself daydreaming about someday owning your very own NFL franchise. After all, they are pretty valuable properties (as you can tell from this article: The Most Valuable NFL Teams)… But how exactly does someone go about earning enough money to buy an NFL team??? You're about to find out!
Buying an NFL team is a crazy expensive endeavor. For the money it takes to buy, own, and run an NFL franchise, you could own several mega yachts, a fleet of private jets and a private island in the Bahamas. But these people below decided to buy an NFL franchise with that money. You know what? I would too.
Let's face it, sometimes football fans think NFL owners have more money than brains. How else do you explain Norv Turner and AJ Smith lasting so long in San Diego? The Spanos family (which owns The Chargers) has to have taken a leave of their sanity. Or how about the Robert Irsay's Baltimore Colts packing everything up in the middle of the night and decamping for Indianapolis? Or, well, anything Al Davis did except firing Lane Kiffin mid-season in 2008. Turns out that old Al may have been crazy, but he knew what he was doing in this instance. (Disclaimer: I am a USC Alumna and huge USC football fan. Lane Kiffin is Satan.) Do I even need to mention Georgia Frontiere's reign as owner of the St. Louis Rams? But enough beating around the bush, let's look at how each NFL team owner got rich enough to purchase a professional football franchise:
Owner: Bill Bidwill – Owner Since: 1972
Team Net Worth: $1 billion
Bidwell's Story: Bill Bidwill inherited the St. Louis Cardinals from his father Charles, who was a Chicago lawyer who allegedly had connections to mobster Al Capone. Bill moved the team from St. Louis to Arizona in 1988 after demands for a new stadium were not met.
Owner: Arthur Blank – Owner Since: 2002
Team Net Worth: $1.1 billion, making them the 26th most valuable NFL team. Current owner Arthur Blank reportedly paid $545 for the team
Blank's Story: Blank co-founded Home Depot in 1978. 'Nuff said, right? Blank is worth $3.9 billion – a far cry from the early days of the very early days of Home Depot, Blank and his partner would stand in the parking lot handing out $1 bills to try and get customers to go in and take a look around their store.
Owner: Stephen Bisciotti – Owner Since: 2004
Team Net Worth: $1.5 billion- the 2012 Super Bowl win helped. Bisciotti was a minority owner of the team since 2000 until he became the full owner in 2004 in a $325 million deal with Art Model. The total amount he paid was $600 million. Bisciotti's Story: At 53, Bisciotti is the second youngest sole owner of an NFL team. Dan Snyder of the Redskins is the youngest. Bisciotti founded Aerotek in a basement with his cousin. This later became the parent company the Allegis Group, which owns Aerotek and TEKsystems, engineering and technology staffing firms. He is a recruiter, basically. He is worth $1.6 billion.
Owner: Terrence Pegula – Owner Since 2014
Team Net Worth: $1.4 billion – After graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a BS in Engineering, went to work for the Getty Oil company. In 1983, at the age of 32, Terrence branched out on his own by founding an oil and gas exploration company he named East Resources. Over the next several decades, Easy Resources grew into an incredibly successful company. In 2010, Terrence sold off most of the company's assets to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 billion. He sold another chunk of assets to American Energy in 2014 for $1.75 billion. He then used a portion of his funds to purchase the Buffalo Sabres NHL team and the Buffalo Bandits lacrosse team for $189 million. He also gave an $88 million donation to Penn State to aid in the construction of their new Pegula Ice Arena, and gave another $12 million to Houghton University for their Kerr-Pegula Sports Complex. On September 9, 2014, it was announced that a group of investors led by Terry had won the right to purchase the Buffalo Bills NFL franchise for $1.4 billion from the estate of former owner Ralph Wilson. Terry's group beat out competing bids from a group led by Jon Bon Jovi and another group led by Donald Trump.
Ralph Wilson – Buffalo Bills owner from 1959 -2014. (We had already written this and didn't want to just delete because Ralph was an awesome guy) Ralph Wilson founded the Buffalo bills as part of the American Football League in 1959. In 1970, the league merged with the NFL. Wilson was 94-years old at the time of his death in March 2014. That made him the oldest owner in the NFL. Just after WWII, Ralph took over his dad's insurance company. He had bigger dreams and a lot of business sense. Ralph acquired trucking companies, highway construction firms, manufacturing plants, and TV and radio stations in Detroit as well as around the country under the holding company Ralph Wilson Enterprises, making it no surprise that the Bills play in Ralph Wilson Stadium. In October 2014, it was announced that Ralph's estate would use a large portion of the $1.4 billion earned from selling the Bills to create a massive charity that will benefit the cities of Detroit and Buffalo.
Owner: Jerry Richardson – Owner Since: 1993
Team Net Worth: Just over $1.2 billion
Richardson's Story: Richardson is a former NFL player for the Baltimore Colts. He was their wide receiver in 1959 and 1960, but he made his money owning Hardee's franchises in South Carolina and going on to run a food services company, Flagstar, as its CEO. Flagstar ran every single Denny's in the U.S. Richardson retired in 1995. He is personally worth $500 million.
Owner: Virginia Halas McCaskey – Owner Since: 1983
Team Net Worth: $1.7 billion. McCaskey owns 80% of the Bears alongside her children and grandchildren.
Halas McCaskey's Story: The NFL. Seriously. Virginia Halas McCaskey is the eldest child of legendary Bears coach and owner George "Papa Bear" Halas who left the team to his daughter upon his death in 1983. George Halas took a A.E. Staley Company's (a starch manufacturer where he worked) rec league football team and basically turned it into the NFL. She is personally worth $1.6 billion.
Owner: Mike Brown – Owner Since: 1991
Team Net Worth: $990 million. Brown took over the Bengals after his father died. He is also the General Manager of the Bengals. He and Jerry Jones are the only two owner/managers in the NFL. Brown's Story: Football. Like the Halas family, the Browns go way back in the NFL. Mike Brown's father Paul co-founded the Bengals.
Owner: Jimmy Haslam – Owner Since: 2012
Team Net Worth: Haslam bought the Browns from Randy Lerner in 2012 for $1 billion
Haslam's Story: Haslam had to sell his minority interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers to buy the Browns per NFL rules not allowing owners to have ownership stakes in more than one team. Haslam is the CEO of the Pilot Flying J truck stop company. Haslam and his company are currently under federal investigation for allegedly cheating customers out of fuel rebates.
Owner: Jerry Jones – Owner Since: 1989
Team Net Worth: $3.2 billion. The Cowboys are the Most Valuable NFL franchise.
Jones' Story: Jones bought the Cowboys for $140 million in 1989. He is one of the most visible (and eccentric) owners in pro sports. In 2009, Cowboys Stadium (now called AT&T Stadium in another multi-billion dollar deal) opened at a cost of $1.3 billion to build. Jones made his money in oil in the 1970s and '80s. Jones' net worth is $2.7 billion.
Owner: Pat Bowlen – Owner Since: 1984
Team Net Worth: $1.45 billion.
Bowlen's Story: Bowlen was an attorney in Edmonton before he became an executive in, you guessed it, his family's oil drilling and exploration company, Regent Resources. Bowlen's personal net worth is $1 billion.
Owner: Martha Firestone Ford – Owner Since: 1963 (through her husband)
Team Net Worth: Martha's husband William Clay Ford bought the Lions for $4.5 million in 1963. The team is worth $960 million today. That's $4.5 million per playoff wins for this beleaguered team from the Motor City. Ford was Henry Ford's (last surviving) grandson. He was the largest stockholder in the Ford Motor Company and was worth $$1.2 billion at the time of his death. Martha is the granddaughter of Firestone and Rubber Company founder Harvey Firestone.
Green Bay Packers
Owner: Green Bay Packers, Inc. – Owner Since: n/a
Team Net Worth: $1.4 billion
The Packers' Story: The Packers are a publicly traded non-profit company owned by their shareholders. There are currently 364,122 shareholders of the Packers. When the organization needs money for something expensive like a stadium renovation, they sell more shares to raise funding. There can never be a majority owner of the Green Bay Packers as there is a limit on how many shares any one person can hold in the team. This business model has been banned by the NFL despite its success and effectiveness. Green Bay was grandfathered in.
Owner: Robert C. McNair – Owner Since: 2002
Team Net Worth: $1.9 billion currently. McNair and his partners bought this expansion team for $700 million. The Texans are the 5th most valuable NFL team. McNair's Story: McNair made his millions when he sold his power plant company to Enron in 1999.
Owner: Jim Irsay – Owner Since: 1997
Team Net Worth: $1.4 billion.
Irsay's Story: Jim's dad Robert built a $150 million fortune in heating and air-conditioning companies. He bought the Los Angeles Rams for $19 million in 1972. He then traded teams with Carroll Rosenbloom, ending up with the Baltimore Colts. That bit of hijinks should have clued Colts fans into Irsay's shenanigans, maybe they wouldn't have been so shocked when he packed the team up and moved them in the middle o the night from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984. Irsay is personally worth $1.2 billion.
Owner: Shahid Khan – Owner Since: 2012
Team Net Worth: $965 million. Shocking, right? Do they actually win games? I kid, I kid!
Khan's Story: Khan was born in Pakistan and moved to the U.S. when he was 16-years old to study engineering at the University of Illinois. Post-college he went to work for Flex-N-Gate, an autoparts company making bumpers, as an engineering manager. Khan saw how inefficiently the manufacturing process was, streamlined it and started his own company – Bumper Works. Soon after he bought Flex-N-Gate which, since the 1980s has been the sole bumper supplier for Toyota. Khan's company made $3.9 billion in 2012.
Kansas City Chiefs
Owner: Clark Hunt – Owner Since: 2006
Team Net Worth: $1.1 billion. The Chiefs have been in the Hunt family since the team' founding in the AFL days.
Hunt's Story: Clark Hunt is the grandson of oil magnate H.L. Hunt, said to be the inspiration for J.R. Ewing's character on Dallas. Clark's father Lamar was one of the co-founders of the American Football League, and the person who came up with the name Super Bowl. When Lamar passed away in 2006, Clark inherited the Chiefs.
Owner: Stephen M. Ross – Owner Since: 2009
Team Net Worth: $1.2 billion. In 2009, Ross increased his share of the franchise to 90% (previously he had 50%).
Ross' Story: Ross is a tax attorney turned real estate developer who invested in affordable housing, then sold them to wealthy investors as tax shelters. His projects include the Time Warner Center in Manhattan. He is worth $4.4 billion and has donated $313 million to date, to his alma mater, the University of Michigan.
Owner: Zygi Wilf – Owner Since: 2005
Team Net Worth: $1.1 billion. Wilf and his partners purchased the franchise for $600 million. That's a serious increase in value in eight years.
Wilf's Story: Wilf's family are German immigrants who survived the Holocaust. They built their wealth by building single family homes in the 1950s. Wilf and his brothers expanded the company. They now develop townhouses in 39 states and have a commercial department that handles shopping malls. The company has 21 million square feet of retail space. Wilf is worth $1.3 billion.
New England Patriots
Owner: Robert Kraft – Owner Since: 1995
Team Net Worth: Kraft bought the Patriots in 1995 for $172 million. Today the team is worth $2.6 billion.
Kraft's Story: Kraft got his start in his father-in-law's packaging material company. Not exactly sexy stuff. Eventually he bought the company, and merged it with a packaging and recycling company he had founded called International Forest Products. Robert Kraft's net worth is $4 billion.
New Orleans Saints
Owner: Tom Benson – Owner Since: 1985
Team Net Worth: $1.1 billion. Benson bought the franchise when he found out the teams was in talks to move to Jacksonville.
Benson's Story: Benson owns multiple car dealerships in New Orleans and San Antonio. Through the success there, he began to invest in and buy local banks, forming Benson Financial, which funded his purchase of the Saints. He sold Benson Financial in 1996 for $440 million and is personally worth $1.1 billion.
New York Giants
Owner: John Mara and Steve Tisch – Owner Since: 2005
Team Net Worth: $2.1 billion.
Mara and Tisch's Story: The Mara's wealth started with the Giant's original owner, Tim Mara, a bookkeeper for the horse races who bought the Giants for $500 in 1925. Tisch is a film producer who inherited his stake in the Giants from his father Bob, co-owner of the Loews Corporation. Mara is worth $500 million. Tisch is worth $1.2 billion. Actresses Rooney Mara (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and Kate Mara (House of Cards) are John Mara's nieces. Rooney and Kate's grandfather on their mother's side, Art Rooney, founded the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kata and Rooney's great-uncle Dan Rooney owns the Steelers today (as you're about to learn)…
Owner: Dan Rooney – Owner Since: 1988
Team Net Worth: $1.3 billion.
Rooney's Story: Franchise history says that Dan's father Art Rooney won the $2,500 he needed to buy Pittsburgh and NFL franchise in 1933 after he won a parlay at the horse track. This story has been disputed, but it is far too intriguing not to mention.
New York Jets
Owner: Robert Wood Johnson IV – Owner Since: 2000
Team Net Worth: $1.8 billion. Johnson bought the team for $635 million.
Johnson's Story: Robert "Woody" Johnson IV is the heir to Johnson & Johnson. He is personally worth $3.5 billion.
Owner: Mark and Carol Davis – Owner Since: 2011
Team Net Worth: $970 million
Davis' Story: Mark Davis and mom Carol inherited their controlling interest in the Raiders from their father, legendary owner Al Davis. Al was coach and general manager before becoming the team's owner.
Owner: Jeffrey Lurie – Owner Since: 1994
Team Net Worth: Lurie bought the Eagles for $195 million. The team is currently worth $1.75 billion.
Lurie's Story: The Lurie's made their money with a movie theatre chain founded by Jeffrey's grandfather. They increased their fortune by buying bottling companies and clothing stores. Lurie is worth $1.2 billion.
San Diego Chargers
Owner: Alex Spanos – Owner Since: 1984
Team Net Worth: $995 million.
Spanos' Story: In 1951, Spanos started a catering company with an $800 loan. Later he took his catering profits and moved into real estate, founding A.G. Spanos Companies. His construction company builds apartments and commercial buildings.
San Francisco 49ers
Owner: Jed York – Owner Since: 2009
Team Net Worth: $1.6 billion.
York's Story: 33-year old York is the youngest owner in the NFL. He is the nephew of Edward DeBartolo, Jr, who for 23 years owned and ran the Niners franchise pretty perfectly. The family fortune comes from construction and real estate. They built some of the very first shopping malls in the suburbs in the U.S.
Owner: Paul Allen – Owner Since: 1997 – Team Net Worth: $1.3 billion.
Allen's Story: Allen is a co-founder of Microsoft. With a net worth is $17 billion, he is by far the NFL's richest team owner.
Los Angeles Rams
Owner: Stan Kroenke – Owner Since: 2010 – Team Net Worth: $930 million (that makes them the least valuable team in the NFL)
Kroenke's Story: Kroenke is a real estate developer who owns properties around the country. Many of his developments are anchored by Wal-Marts. This isn't a surprise, he is married to Anna Walton, whose father Bud co-founded Wal-Mart with his brother Sam. Kroenke is worth $5 billion today. In 2016, Kroenke moved the Rams from St. Louis to Los Angeles where he intends to build a massive stadium complex in the heart of Inglewood.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Owner: Malcolm Glazer – Owner from 1995 – 2014.
Team Net Worth: In 1995, Glazer's $192 million purchase was a record. Now the team is worth $1.1.2 billion
Glazer's Story: Malcolm Glazer inherited his father's watch business when he was 15-years old. He began buying trailer parks in the 70s and under his holding company First Allied Corporation, he owns and rents shopping centers. Glazer also owns Manchester United. He was worth $4.4 billion at the time of his death in 2014. Today the team is controlled by his sons.
Owner: Bud Adams – Owner from 1960 – 2013
Team Net Worth: $1.1 billion
Adams' Story: Adams made his money in oil, which makes sense considering the Titans used to be the Houston Oilers. Adams was worth $1.1 billion at the time of his death in 2013. Ownership of the Titans is now controlled by Bud's children and grandchildren.
Owner: Dan Snyder – Owner Since: 1999
Team Net Worth: $2.4 billion
Snyder's Story: Snyder and his sister started a direct marketing and advertising company specializing in doctor's offices and hospitals. When this business took off, they branched out into telemarketing. Snyder also owns three sports radio stations in DC. He purchased Dick Clark Productions and runs a production company with Tom Cruise. He's worth $1 billion.