No wonder President Obama wants to raise taxes on billionaires. There are now three more of them to go after, at least in the NFL.
Some of those rich folks enjoying a net worth right in the ten figure range tend to slide on and off the annual Forbes billionaires list, depending on which side of the billion dollar ledger their assets sit on at the time. This year, NFL owners William C. Ford Sr. (Detroit Lions), Bud Adams (Tennessee Titans) and Denise DeBartolo York (San Francisco 49ers) all jump onto the list. Also added: billionaire auto parts man Shahid Khan, who joined the NFL fraternity in January after his purchase of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It adds up to 18 billionaires among the NFL’s 31 owners (the Green Bay Packers are owned by public shareholders), far more than any other U.S. sports league. Most made their own money, some primarily through their ownership stakes in their teams (the Colts’ Jim Irsay and the Eagles Jeffrey Luria fall into this group). That says a lot about the power of the NFL - where else can millionaire become a billionaire by buying a sports team and watching it grow?
Leading the pack as usual: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, whose $15 billion net worth is roughly one-third of the entire NFL. In fact, Allen, who also owns the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, is worth nearly half the collective $33.8 billion of the league’s other 17 billionaires.
Running a distant second to Allen: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, a real estate mogul worth $4.4 billion who’s tried to add some glitz to the franchise by selling minority shares to a celebrity list that includes Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan and the Williams sisters. The ploy hasn’t done much – the Dolphins were 28th in the league in attendance last season. Right behind Ross: the Rams' Stan Kroenke ($4 billion), followed by Tampa Bay’s Malcolm Glazer ($3.6 billion), the Cowboys' Jerry Jones ($2.7 billion) and Jacksonville’s Khan ($2.5 billion). If you need proof that deep pocketed ownership doesn’t necessarily translate into wins, check Florida. The owners of the Dolphins, Jaguars and Bucs, worth a collective $10.5 billion, won a combined 15 of 48 games last season.
In fact, only four of 18 billionaire owners - Tom Benson, Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones and Irsay - have won Super Bowls (we won’t count DeBartolo York, who didn’t personally control the 49ers until after their championship years). A billion dollar wallet doesn’t guarantee success in the NFL. But with most franchises now worth that much, it’s almost a necessity for getting a seat at the table.