It’s a fraternity that few humans will ever get to experience: owning a professional sports franchise.
The state of Florida is fortunate to have nine pro sports teams among the “Big 4” sports.
The state’s franchise deemed to be the most valuable using information from statista.com is the Miami Dolphins, at $2.9 billion. From a value perspective, the three NFL teams rank the highest, with Tampa Bay ($2.28 billion) second and the Jaguars third ($2.075 billion). The Miami Heat are close behind at $2 billion.
The two Major League Baseball teams — the Marlins and Rays — are owned by consortiums consisting of multiple owners, with majority stakeholders not even claiming 50 percent ownership. The Marlins are currently the only team with a value lower than the price that was paid by ownership.
The Orlando Magic and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are run by the families of deceased owners who once stewarded those teams.
The richest owner award goes to Shad Khan of the Jaguars, at an estimated $8 billion. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross comes in second at $7 billion.
So, who are the owners and how did they get so rich that they could afford pro sports teams?
Below is a breakdown.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Miami Marlins: Bruce Sherman, Derek Jeter and others
Owners: An investment group headed by principal owner Bruce Sherman and CEO Derek Jeter. Sherman owns roughly 46 percent of the team after putting in $400 million. Jeter owns a 4 percent stake in the team after putting in $25 million, making him the sixth-largest investor in the team. NBA legend Michael Jordan also owns a small stake, for which he paid about $5 million. Among others in the ownership group (and their approximate stakes) are Viking Global co-founder David Ott (10 percent), Energy Capital Partners senior partner Doug Kimmelman (8 percent), Sigma Group founder Jaime Montealegre (7 percent) and The Beekman Group managing partner John Troiano (5 percent).
Purchase Price: $1.2 billion
Year purchased: 2017
Current value: $980 million (Source: statista.com)
Prior owner: Jeffrey Loria, who purchased the team in 2002 for $158.5 million.
About the sale: The $1.2 billion sale price was the second-largest sum ever paid for a big league franchise, behind the $2 billion the Guggenheim Partners paid for the Dodgers in March 2012.
About the owners: Sherman made his money after co-founding Private Capital Management, based in Naples, in 1985. Over the years the group owned and sold franchises such as Dairy Queen and Legg Mason. Jeter played all 20 years of his Major League career with the New York Yankees, winning five World Series rings. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020.
Owner’s net worth: Bruce Sherman is worth an estimated $550 million (Source: wealthypersons.com)
Championships: 2 (World Series wins in 1997 against the Cleveland Indians and 2003 against the New York Yankees)
Tampa Bay Rays: Stuart Sternberg and others
Owners: Stuart Sternberg is the principal owner at 48 percent. A group of limited partners owns 37 percent, and the estate of the late Vincent Naimoli, the team’s first owner, owns 15 percent. At the time of purchase in 2004, there were 11 members of the limited partners group.
Purchase price: $200 million
Year purchased: 2004
Prior owner: Vincent Naimoli, who was the founder and first owner of the team.
Current value: $1.05 billion (Source: statista.com)
About the sale: Sternberg purchased 48 percent of the team for roughly $65 million in 2004. Naimoli wanted to keep a 15 percent stake. The final 37 percent went to a group of limited investors, who, at the time, included Robert Basham, co-founder of Outback Steakhouse.
About the owner: Sternberg earned a finance degree from St. John’s University and later worked for Goldman Sachs. He worked his way up to became a partner and retired in 2002, cashing in his stock, making him a wealthy man in his early 40s. He initially wanted to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers or New York Mets. He couldn’t make that happen at the time, but the opportunity for the Rays arose and he got in to become the principal owner.
Owner’s net worth: $800 million (Source: celebritynetworth.com)
Championships: None. The Rays have played in two World Series, losing to the Dodgers in 2020 and Phillies in 2008.
Miami Heat: Mickey Arison
Owner: Micky Arison is the sole owner
Purchase price: $68 million
Year purchased: 1995
Prior owners: An ownership group consisting of Arison’s father, Ted Arison, and two other men, Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham and sports agent Lewis Schaffel. That original ownership group paid out $32.5 million in expansion fees in 1988 to bring the team to Miami.
Current value: $2 billion (Source: statista.com)
About the sale: With a losing record for the franchise and lack of identity or brand recognition, Schaffel and Cunningham decided to sell their interest in the team. Micky Arison, son of franchise patriarch Ted Arison, stepped forward to purchase a controlling interest in the Heat on Feb. 13, 1995.
About the owner: Micky Arison is chairman of Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise operator. He is the son of Ted Arison, co-founder of Carnival.
Owner’s net worth: $6.6 billion
Championships: 3 (2006, over the Dallas Mavericks, 2012, over the Oklahoma City Thunder, 2013, over the San Antonio Spurs.)
Orlando Magic: The DeVos family
Owner: RDV Sports, Inc., which is a corporation that was set up by the late Richard DeVos. When DeVos died in 2018, his four children became the largest stakeholders in the franchise, with Dan DeVos as chairman.
Purchase price: $85 million
Year purchased: 1991
Prior owner: An investment group headed up by Orlando real estate developer William duPont III. This group helped bring the Magic to Orlando.
Current value: $1.46 billion (Source: statista.com)
About the sale: DeVos purchased the Magic in 1991, buying them from a group headed by Orlando real estate developer William duPont III.
About the owners: Richard DeVos had four children with his wife Helen: Richard Jr., Dan, Cheri and Doug. They share ownership of the team.
Owner’s net worth: While the net worth of Richard DeVos’ children is not listed, the elder DeVos was worth $5.4 billion when he died.
Championships: None. The Magic have made it to two NBA Finals, losing to the Houston Rockets in 1995 and the L.A. Lakers in 2009.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Shad Khan
Owner: Shad Khan is the sole owner
Purchase price: $770 million
Year purchased: 2012
Prior owner: Wayne Weaver
Current value: $2.075 billion (Source: statista.com)
About the sale: Khan’s first attempt to purchase a National Football League team came on Feb. 11, 2010, when he entered into an agreement to acquire 60% of the then-St. Louis Rams from Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez, subject to approval by other NFL owners. However, Stan Kroenke, the minority shareholder of the Rams, ultimately exercised a clause in his ownership agreement to match any proposed bid. On Nov. 29, 2011, Khan agreed to purchase the Jacksonville Jaguars from Wayne Weaver and his ownership group. Weaver was the founding owner of the Jaguars.
About the owner: Born in Pakistan, Khan came to the U.S. when he was 16. He received an engineering degree while working at automotive manufacturing company Flex-N-Gate Corporation. In 1978, he started Bumper Works, which made car bumpers for customized pickup trucks and body shop repairs. The business did so well, Khan purchased Flex-N-Gate just two years later. He integrated the two soon after and grew it into one of the largest bumper manufacturers in the world by 1987. The company did $8.8 billion in sales in 2020.
Owner’s net worth: $8 billion
Championships: 0. (The furthest the Jaguars have made it is the AFC Championship game, done three times: 1996, 1999 and 2017).
Miami Dolphins: Stephen Ross
Owner(s): Stephen Ross owns 95 percent of the team. He is the chairman and managing general partner. He also has a group of minority owners in Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Marc Anthony, Venus Williams, Serena Williams and Fergie. The remaining 5 percent of the team is owned by the family of the late Wayne Huizenga, the former Dolphins owner who sold the other 95 percent of the team to Ross.
Purchase price: $1.1 billion
Years purchased: 2008 and 2009
Prior owner: Wayne Huizenga
Current value: $2.9 billion (Source: statista.com)
About the sale: Ross purchased 50 percent of the team from then-owner Wayne Huizenga for $550 million in February 2008. He purchased an additional 45 percent of the team from Huizenga about a year later for another $550 million, making his total purchase price $1.1 billion. Huizenga retained 5 percent ownership.
About the owner: Ross is the owner and chairman of The Related Companies, which owns major pieces of real estate around the world, including Palm Beach County.
Owner’s net worth: $7 billion
Championships: 2 (Super Bowl VII over Washington Redskins in 1972 and Super Bowl VIII over the Minnesota Vikings in 1973).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Glazer Family
Owners: The Glazer family, including the six children of the late Malcolm Glazer
Purchase price: $192 million
Year purchased: 1995
Prior owner(s): Hugh Culverhouse
Current value: $2.28 billion (Source: statista.com)
About the sale: Malcolm Glazer purchased the Buccaneers in 1995 for $192 million, a league record at the time. The previous owner, Hugh Culverhouse, had owned the team since it entered the NFL in 1976 as an expansion team. However, Culverhouse was not the person originally awarded the franchise in 1974. That was Tom McCloskey, a Philadelphia construction magnate, who could not come to terms with the NFL over payment for the franchise and was replaced by Culverhouse. The latter was a successful tax attorney who had tried to purchase the Los Angeles Rams and had advised NFL owners on financial matters.
About the owner(s): Malcolm Glazer died in 2014. Ownership of the team transferred to his six children. Three of them, Bryan, Joel, and Edward, took over the day-to-day operations of the team. Both Bryan and Joel have been involved with the team’s operations since their father took over in 1995.
Owner’s net worth: While the net worth of Malcolm Glazer’s six children is not available, Malcom was worth an estimated $4.5 billion at the time of his death in 2014.
Championships: 2 (2002 against the Oakland Raiders and 2020 against the Kansas City Chiefs)
Florida Panthers: Vincent Viola
Owner: Sunrise Sports and Entertainment (Vincent Viola, chairman)
Purchase price: $250 million
Year purchased: 2013
Prior owners: Cliff Viner and a group of investors consisting of minority partners Stu Siegel, Alan Cohen and Wayne Huizenga.
Current value: $295 million (Source: statista.com)
About the sale: Viner became the controlling general partner in 2009 and he and his investors sold the Panthers to Viola in late 2013 after a dismal 2012-13 season.
About the owner: Viola is the former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), and the founder and chairman of Virtu Financial. Virtu Financial is one of the largest providers of financial services, trading products and market making services.
Owner’s net worth: Viola is worth $3.9 billion
Championships: 0 (Made it to Stanley Cup Finals in 1996 but lost to the Colorado Avalanche)
Tampa Bay Lightning: Jeff Vinik
Owner: Jeff Vinik is the sole owner
Purchase price: $140 million
Year purchased: 2010
Prior owners: Hollywood executive Oren Koules and former NHL player Len Barrie. They purchased the franchise from the original owners, a group assembled by Lightning founder and NHL Hall of Famer Phil Esposito. That first ownership group was Kokusai Green Co. Ltd., a Japanese golf resorts company headed by CEO Takashi Okubo.
Current value: $470 million
About the sale: The Lightning were the worst-performing team in the NHL between 2007 and 2010, with a combined record of 89-118-39. The team was flirting with bankruptcy and things were made worse by the global recession. The Lightning also faced possible relocation. Then, Vinik swooped in to purchase the franchise and cement its place in Tampa Bay.
About the owner: Vinik, a New Jersey native, attended Harvard Business School where he obtained an MBA before joining Fidelity Investments. He became a star at Fidelity and went on to manage its world-renowned Fidelity Magellan Fund in the mid-1990s, earning investors a whopping 17% in average annual returns. After a very successful career at the firm, Vinik left to start his own hedge fund, Vinik Asset Management.
Owner’s net worth: $600 million
Championships: 3 (2004 over the Calgary Flames, 2020 over the Dallas Stars and 2021 over the Montreal Canadie).
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