Surprising no one, the Dallas Cowboys topped the 2012 list as the NFL’s most valuable team – the sixth straight year they've held that title. Owner Jerry Jones has turned the league’s highest sponsorship and premium seating revenues into the country’s first $2 billion sports franchise. But that’s the upper edge and if you’re looking to get in, you’ll likely find more opportunity at the other end of the spectrum.
Unfortunately for you, the teams that would probably offer the friendliest price tag have come off the market in recent years. The 31st-ranked team by value, the St. Louis Rams, were purchased by Stan Kroenke in 2010 for $750 million. Kroenke’s last-minute bid knocked Shahid Khan out of the running, but Khan recovered quickly and jumped at the chance to buy the Jacksonville Jaguars for $770 early in 2012. Jacksonville comes in at No. 32 on the list.
Khan’s purchase of the Jaguars is the most recent NFL sale and provides a glimpse into the challenges you might face once you get your hands on a team of your own. A wilting fan base sick of losing, a cavernous stadium that rarely fills, and, as a result, un-televised games that make it tough to keep your team on the map. Khan’s experience in building a business from the ground up will help him, but would you be able to overcome?
With those two scratched off your list of possible purchases, the next most affordable might be the Buffalo Bills or the Oakland Raiders. Both franchises have long-time ownership in place -- dating back to the 50’s and 60’s, respectively – so you’d be cutting some deep roots, but who knows, if you catch them at the right time and put a big enough check on the table, anything is possible.
Working further up from the bottom, The Atlanta Falcons were bought in 2002 and the Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, and Arizona Cardinals are more from the entrenched ownership class. You get the idea… it won’t be easy to find the chance to flash your cash and secure your spot at the owners’ meetings, but your hypothetical billion would put at least 12 teams in play should they test the market.
From there it would be up to your savvy. Potential gold mines await in unoccupied markets like Los Angeles and maybe even London. Mind-boggling stadium deals like Houston’s agreement with Reliant Energy can be had as you partner with massive local companies to build and name your marketable state-of-the-art palace. Perhaps a redesign of the team logo and an update to stale uniforms will boost your team’s merchandise sales.
Taken all together, your billion gets you in the conversation, but there’ll be plenty of work still to do to make your dream project a success.
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