NFL owners have to possess a certain temperament to be successful: Major connections, business savvy, shrewd business skills and, of course, a whole lot of money.
Last updated: Jan. 1, 2021
You’ll Need $3 Billion or More To Invest
If you’re considering buying the Dallas Cowboys, be aware that Forbes reports the team is worth $5.5 billion. To be fair, the Cowboys aren’t only the most valuable team in the NFL, but in all professional sports. On the other end of the spectrum are the lowly Bengals, which you could scoop up for a paltry $2 billion. For the first in history, the average franchise value in the NFL exceeds $3 billion. There are currently four teams valued at $4 billion or more.
The Team’s Sticker Price Should Be Disposable Income
NFL team owners represent a small and exclusive group of very rich people who have professional franchise money to burn — so you’d better have the net worth to stack up. The richest owner in the NFL is David Tepper, according to Forbes. With an estimated net worth of $13 billion, Tepper, who owns the Carolina Panthers, is the 41st richest person in the US and is worth nearly $4.5 billion more than Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
You’d Better Be Business Savvy
To the fans who watch the games and buy jerseys, football is a sport. But to NFL owners, it’s a business. Want to join the club? You’d better have the business acumen to back it up. According to Fortune, Redskins owner Dan Snyder took his first company public when he was only 32. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones sold his father’s insurance firm and successfully invested the proceeds in the oil business. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross parlayed a $10,000 loan into a $50 billion real estate company. The most successful owners are also wealthy people who have figured out how to stay rich.
It Helps To Keep Management in the Loop
For example, when Fox Sports ranked the best and worst front offices in football from No. 1 to No. 32 in 2017, the Buffalo Bills came in near the bottom of the heap at No. 29. While giving examples of the team’s management dysfunction, Fox Sports reported that the Bills’ general manager — normally in charge of personnel matters — wasn’t even aware that coach Rex Ryan had been fired until owner Terry Pegula told him so.
Know Good People — and Know When To Walk Away From Them
According to Fortune, one of Jerry Jones’ first moves after buying the Cowboys in the late 1980s was to fire iconic coach Tom Landry and hire Jones’ old college teammate Jimmy Johnson as head coach. The switch went on to define the franchise, which is now the world’s most valuable team.
A Go-Along-To-Get-Along Personality Can Limit Exposure and Maximize Profits
According to Deadspin, Jerry Jones is “a power-hungry jackal.” While that may be hyperbole, the Cowboys owner is certainly a hyper-aggressive media magnet who isn’t afraid of alienating fellow owners. He famously made headlines when a committee of fellow NFL owners threatened Jones with lost draft picks and even termination. The reason? Jones has been on a relentless campaign to antagonize, provoke and stymie NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who the other owners count on to keep the money flowing in.
Don’t Overestimate the Value Your Community Places on Your Product
According to The Los Angeles Times, football stadiums cost three times what they used to but don’t last as long. In addition, they don’t offer year-round employment and aren’t used enough to make a significant contribution to the local economy — and taxpayers are taking notice. There used to be widespread public support for tax-subsidized stadiums, but those days appear to be coming to an end. In California, for example, virtually all new stadiums since 2002 were built without any taxpayer dollars. That trend likely forced the Chargers to leave San Diego in 2017, where the team haggled in vain for years in an effort to secure subsidies that taxpayers continuously voted down.
Know How To Build and Maintain a Leadership Nucleus
Great CEOs build great teams, and NFL owners aren’t different than any other business leaders. The Seattle Seahawks have been a formidable team in recent years, in part because the late Paul Allen recognized the chemistry in the relationship between head coach Pete Carroll and talent-spotting whiz GM John Schneider. According to Fox Sports, the former owner prioritized keeping the duo intact — and it worked. Both Carroll and Schneider remain with the Seahawks franchise.
Be Willing To Share
As far back as 2015, Rams owner Stan Kroenke made it clear that he was ready to share a stadium with another franchise if it meant bringing football back to Los Angeles, where three teams were vying for a spot in the NFL drought-stricken city. That flexibility was especially impressive considering Kroenke did most of the heavy lifting on bringing pro football back to L.A. Fast forward and Kroenke’s willingness to compromise resulted in Angelenos having two teams to choose from instead of none. The new SoFi stadium in Los Angeles, which the two teams share, is luxurious, modern and came with a price tag of $5 billion.
Be Willing To Abandon Your Customers for Greener Pastures
In 1984, a convoy of 16 tractor-trailers arrived in Indianapolis after traveling 600 miles overnight from Baltimore. The convoy carried the entire Colts organization. In what a USA Today retrospective called the most famous move in sports history, then-owner Bob Irsay hightailed it out of Baltimore in the middle of the night with literally no warning. Even the truck drivers didn’t know their destination until the last minute. After a long and public series of failed negotiations with the city of Baltimore — which included differences over stadium financing and massive ego clashes — the Colts owner felt there was nothing left to gain for the Colts in the team’s longtime home of Baltimore. He negotiated a move in secret and disappeared in the middle of the night while the city slept, leaving Baltimore without a team until 1996. Irsay remains one of the most reviled characters in Baltimore history.
You Can’t Have a Weak Stomach for High-Stakes Poker
Owner Jerry Jones has been synonymous with the Cowboys for nearly a quarter century, but in the beginning, the world’s most valuable team was a massive gamble strapped with debt. According to SportsDay, the team cost $70 million — but leasing rights cost another $70 million. The team was also behind on bills to the tune of $30 million. Since he could only secure $34 million in financing, Jones had to front $77 million of his own money and loan the team $20 million, putting his fortune and family legacy on the line for one giant bet. The gamble paid off. Jones is now in the Hall of Fame with Super Bowl rings on three fingers.
To Succeed, Be a Visionary
When it comes to revenue generation, there was the NFL before Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys and there was the NFL after. Far more than a team owner, Jones immediately emerged as a full-on mogul who became the first owner to leverage a stadium for corporate sponsorships. He challenged tradition and took the lead in bringing the league’s television strategy into the modern era. Jones, who Forbes says has a net worth of $8.6 billion, is in the almost unprecedented position of serving as the team’s owner and general manager.
Use Philanthropy and Celebrity to Your Advantage
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who bought out 95 percent of the team for $1.1 billion, has endeared himself to fans in several ways. When Hurricane Irma threatened Florida in 2017, Ross flew his entire team, its staff and all their families to the safety of California and then donated $1 million to relief efforts. He also enlisted headline-grabbing star power by taking on Gloria Estefan and Venus and Serena Williams as partners.
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