Being rich seems like it would be a lot of fun. If you’re a billionaire, you get to do fun things like buy Teslas and exorbitant/superfluous water vessels. If you’re rich and a bit lucky, you can also buy a professional sports franchise.
Owning a sports franchise seems like it would be plenty of work, but it seemingly also comes with plenty of perks. You can choose to be a hands-off owner like former Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander, or you can be the meddlesome, publicity-hungry type like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Or, you can be a little bit of both.
Most pro sports franchises are owned by groups of investors rather than an individual. We know that the value for sports franchises is exploding, with several teams around the world now worth over one billion dollars. Most of those teams reside in the United States, though plenty are represented in Europe as well.
Let’s run down a list of the world’s 10 wealthiest sports owners today.
Facts and figures via Forbes.
10. Micky Arison (Miami Heat) – $8.1 billion
Micky Arison seems to live the ideal billionaire lifestyle. He rose to prominence as a businessman, and he eventually became the chairman of the world’s largest cruise line, Carnival Cruises. He was the CEO of Carnival from 1979 until 2013, and during that time he amassed quite a bit of wealth. Forbes estimates Arison, 68, is worth in excess of $8 billion. That’s a whole lotta scratch.
Back in 1995, Arison purchased the NBA’s Miami Heat for the tidy fee of just $33 million. During his time as owner, the Heat have gone on to win 3 NBA championships and have emerged as one of the most player-friendly destinations in the NBA. Today, the Heat franchise is worth an estimated $1.7 billion.
So, Arison, who is now retired from Carnival, gets to live in Miami and oversee one of the most successful franchises in the NBA. There are certainly worse ways to live.
9. Shahid Khan (Jacksonville Jaguars) – $8.2 billion
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan eclipses Arison for the No. 9 spot on the list. Khan, 67, is the richest person of Pakistani origin in the world. He was born in Pakistan before moving to the United States when he was 16 in order to go to college.
Khan earned his money in the automobile industry for a company called Flex-N-Gate. While there, he started a new branch that sold customized bumpers called Bumper Works. Bumper Works sold bumpers to some of the biggest name-brand car companies in the world, and in the late-80s it became Toyota’s U.S.-based sole supplier.
Khan originally attempted to make his way into the NFL in 2010 when he made a bid for the then-St. Louis Rams. Khan saw his bid matched by Stan Kroenke, however, so he was forced to go in a different direction. Nearly 2 years later, Khan purchased 100% of the Jacksonville Jaguars for about $760 million. With the transaction, Khan earned the distinction of being the first non-white owner of an NFL franchise.
Khan also owns Fulham Football Club, who are currently playing in the second division of English soccer. He made the purchase back in 2013.
Khan is also the proud owner of a fabulous mustache.
8. Mikhail Prokhorov (Brooklyn Nets) – $8.9 billion
Prokhorov is one of the youngest members of the list. Just 52, the Russian billionaire playboy made headlines when he purchased the then-New Jersey Nets in 2010. Prokhorov purchased an 80% stake in the Nets in addition to promising to build a brand new arena in Brooklyn, New York. Prokhorov owns a 45% stake in the Barclays Center, which opened in 2012.
Prokhorov became the first person from outside North America to be the majority owner of an NBA franchise. After playing out the string in New Jersey, the Nets officially made the move to Brooklyn in April of 2012.
Prokhorov was aggressive in trying to turn the Nets from a doormat into a winner, but he ultimately came up short. The Nets are currently among the worst teams in the league, and they’re mired in a lengthy rebuilding process. In late 2017, Prokhorov agreed to sell 49% of the Nets to billionaire Joseph Thai for $1.2 billion.
Prokhorov also ran for president of Russia in 2011.
7. Roman Abramovich (Chelsea) – $9.1 billion
Another young Russian, 51–year-old Roman Abramovich checks in as the 7th-wealthiest team owner on the planet. Abramovich compiled his fortune as a businessman and investor. He traded all sorts of different products, but his chief focus was oil and gas.
Back in 2003, Abramovich took control of Chelsea Football Club. Chelsea was a decent side in the years prior, but they had endured a long drought without a league title. The team finished second in the Premier League in Abramovich’s first season as owner, and they went on to win the league the very next year under first-year manager Jose Mourinho.
Abramovich has never been shy about splashing the cash to make sure Chelsea have all the talent they need in order to compete with Europe’s most prestigious sides. He’s also been quick to fire managers that fail to live up to expectations. Just half a season after Mourinho won the league again during his second stint with Chelsea, Abramovich sacked the decorated Portuguese manager because the team was not living up to expectations.
Under Abramovich, Chelsea has now won the Premier League 5 times, and they won the UEFA Champions League in 2012.
6. Hasso Plattner (San Jose Sharks) – $11.2 billion
Plattner, a native of Berlin, Germany, is one of the investors in San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises, which owns the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. Since 2013, Plattner has served on the NHL’s Board of Governor representing the Sharks’ interests.
The 74-year-old accumulated his wealth as a businessman, and he has earned a number of awards and accolades for his philanthropy and his dedication to science. He got his start as the co-founder of SAP SE software company. Since 2003, he has been serving as chairman of the board.
Compared to some of the other names on this list, Plattner seems rather bland, so we can move on.
5. Philip Anschutz (Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Galaxy) – $12.5 billion
Philip Anschutz, a Wyoming native, made most of his money after buying out his own father’s drilling company in 1961. After making money in that field, Anschutz expanded his interests and got involved in investing in things like railroads and real estate.
Perhaps the most interesting nugget about Anschutz is that he was one of the original founders of the first major professional soccer league in the United States, Major League Soccer. He is also listed as the founder of several franchises, including the San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo, Chicago Fire, New York/New Jersey MetroStars and Los Angeles Galaxy. Of those, the Galaxy is still the only team owned by Anschutz.
Anschutz owns stock in several of the world’s most well-known arenas, including Staples Center, StubHub Center and the O2 Arena in London. He additionally owns stakes in the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and the NBA’s L.A. Lakers.
Anschutz is in charge of The Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is a massive Los Angeles-based live music and entertainment presenter. AEG Live even owns the Coachella Music Festival.
4. Dietrich Mateschitz (New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Racing) – $13.4 billion
Red Bull gives you wings, you know. Dietrich Mateschitz was the man behind Red Bull Energy Drink. The Austria native founded the company back in 1984 along with partners Chaleo and Chalerm Yoovidhya. The energy drink officially launched for the first time in 1987, and the rest is history. Red Bull remains the leading energy drink brand all over the world.
Mateschitz has slapped the Red Bull brand all over the place. He was the owner of Team Red Bull for 5 years, which sponsored cars that raced in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He has also expanded his interests to the world of soccer. In 2006, Mateschitz purchased the MLS team formerly known as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars and immediately rebranded them as the New York Red Bulls, as they are known today.
Red Bull also founded a German club based in Leipzig that quickly advanced from Germany’s fifth division all the way to the Bundesliga in under a decade.
3. Paul Allen (Portland Trail Blazers, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders) – $19.9 billion
If you’re a fan of the NBA or NHL, you’ve presumably heard of Paul Allen, who is one of many that has made his fortune in the world of tech. Allen, 65, co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in the late-70s and early-80s. There was plenty of conflict between the 2 over the years, but Allen stuck around until officially resigning as a member of the board of directors in 2000.
Allen is an avid real estate investor, but he is arguably best known for his ownership of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and MLS’ Seattle Sounders. Allen purchased the Blazers for $70 million in 1988, the Seahawks in 1996; his company, Vulcan Sports & Entertainment, also helped found the Sounders in 2009.
The Seahawks were actually seriously threatening to move to Southern California at the time they were for sale, but Allen purchased the team with the commitment of building a new stadium and keeping them in Seattle. He kept his word, and his Seahawks are now worth well over $1 billion.
2. Mukesh Ambani (Mumbai Indians) – $23.2 billion
The Mumbai Indians aren’t really a team you’re going to hear a whole lot about if you live in the United States, but they are a professional cricket team that plays in the Indian Premier League. They have been one of the most successful clubs in the league in recent years, having won league titles in 2013, 2015 and 2017. If this rate keeps up, they can go ahead and start planning the championship parade for 2019.
The league was officially founded in 2007, and in 2008 Ambani purchased the rights to a Mumbai-based franchise for 10 years. The team did not perform well during their first few years of existence, but they have since gone on to become arguably the most decorated franchise in the country.
1. Steve Ballmer (Los Angeles Clippers) – $38.7 billion
Ballmer’s rise came well after Gates and Allen, but he served as the CEO of Microsoft from 2000 until 2014. It’s safe to say he made his 14 years count. As of January 2018, Ballmer reportedly had a net worth of nearly $39 billion, which makes him the most wealthy owner in professional sports.
Ballmer initially joined Microsoft in 1980 and gradually rose through the ranks. Ballmer was offered an 8% share of the company in 1981. Microsoft continued to grow in the ensuing decades, and Ballmer made the wise decision to sell a huge number of those shares in 2003. He sold over 39 million Microsoft shares in ‘03, which netted him about $955 million. He still owned 4% of the company after his big payday.
Ballmer has long had interest in owning an NBA franchise, and he was a part of a group of investors that tried to buy the Sacramento Kings in order to move them to Seattle in 2012. A proposed deal fell through, however, and the Kings stayed in Northern California.
Once Donald Sterling was forced by the league to sell the L.A. Clippers, Ballmer quickly jumped at the chance to buy them. He offered a then-record $2 billion to take the Clippers off of Sterling’s hands, and he officially became the franchise’s new owner in August of 2014.
Ballmer is the wealthiest owner in the world by a wide margin, but there are some names outside the top-10 to watch moving forward. You’ve presumably heard of Stan Kroenke, who infamously made the decision to move his St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles in 2016. Kroenke, who is worth just under $8 billion, also owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and Arsenal of the English Premier League.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross ($7.4 billion), Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert ($5.8 billion), Orlando Magic owners Rich DeVos and family ($5.6 billion) and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ($5.2 billion) all check in just outside the current top-10.