Everywhere you look, there continue to be signs of just how lucrative professional sports has become. And not only aren’t those indicators going anywhere, they’re getting more prominent—impossible to ignore.
Look at professional athlete salaries. Look at the naming rights deals between arenas and corporations. Look at sponsorship deals signed between players and companies. Look at the brand agreements between teams and corporate sponsors. Look at how popular sports betting has become since 2018. And then look at how popular, thorough and invaluable the coverage of sports betting has become at top-notch sites like onlinesportsbetting.net.
Oh, yeah: You should also look at the rising valuations of professional sports franchises. They have skyrocketed across all leagues over the past couple of decades, though the returns have been highest in sports such as football, soccer, baseball and basketball.
This inflation of franchise valuations has, in turn, made it even harder to buy one. Owners of pro sports teams were always members of an exclusive clique. But that club has recently been winnowed down even further.
Majority stakeholders don’t just need net worths in the billions of dollars to earn their seat at the table. For the most part, they need to have net worths in the tens of billions of dollars.
Given this semi-recent phenomenon, it has become increasingly mainstream to monitor how much all pro-sports-franchise owners are worth each year.
And fortunately for us, the folks over at Forbes put together a list of the 400 richest owners throughout sports. We’ve ranked the top five, so that you can see who tops the field and which teams they’re currently controlling.
Please note: You will find each owner’s net worth entering August 2022 in parentheticals.
1. Steve Ballmer – NBA – L.A. Clippers ($96.5 Billion)
“Steve Ballmer” by The CBI is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Turns out it was pretty cool to be part of Microsoft from the beginning. Who knew?
No pro-sports owner has the wealth of Steve Ballmer. His $96.5 billion valuation is more than triple that of the person you’ll see in second place; there is nearly a $65 billion chasm separating them.
Ballmer has engendered cultish support for flirting with the first $100 billion net worth among sports owners. But he has also endeared himself to L.A. Clippers and general NBA fans by (so far) refusing to care about how much he spends on payroll.
To wit: Next year’s Clippers are set to have one of the two highest payrolls and luxury-tax bills in NBA history.
2. Daniel Gilbert – NBA – Cleveland Cavaliers ($30.9 Billion)
When you own a company that specializes in mortgage loans, you’re bound to be absurdly loaded.
Without further ado, meet Daniel Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans, a company that is valued at nearly $37 billion.
While Gilbert is the second richest owner in sports, he doesn’t get the same source of support shown to Ballmer. But the criticism is justified. Gilbert has been known to skimp when it comes to paying Cleveland Cavaliers basketball executives, certain players and even luxury-tax bills.
3. Robert Pera – NBA – Memphis Grizzlies ($19.0 Billion)
Don’t worry about seeing a third NBA owner on this list. It’s a sign of the times.
No pro sports league in North America has seen their franchise valuations change more starkly over the past couple of decades than the NBA. And with such dramatic increases come incredibly, stupidly rich owners.
Robert Pera’s net worth may currently pale in comparison to that of Ballmer and Gilbert, but he’s a lot younger than both. No owner in the NBA, in fact, is younger than Pera.
The 44-year-old accumulated his wealth by founding a company that provided wireless networking gear. His presence in a smaller market like Memphis is considered critical, since the Association’s teams outside glamor destinations have been known to pinch pennies when filling out rosters and basketball staff.
Pera has yet to do either.
4. Steve Cohen – MLB – New York Mets ($16.0 Billion)
“CitiField” by Wally Gobetz is licensed under CC BY 2.0
New York Mets fans are going to love seeing Steve Cohen, a hedge fund extraordinaire, crack this list.
Prior to Cohen, the Mets were owned by the Wilpon family. They were notorious for spending like a small-market team on everything from players to stadium amenities to staff and personnel.
That’s a no-go when you own the freaking Mets, one of MLB’s legacy franchises.
True to his net worth, Cohen has been more willing to spend on players. And less than a half-decade into his ownership tenure, the Mets are already in much better shape for it.
5. David Tepper – NFL – Carolina Panthers ($15.8 Billion)
Most would have expected Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys ($11.7 billion) to be the first NFL owner to appear here. After all, no NFL franchise has a higher valuation than the ‘Boys.
However, the primary source of Jones’ wealth is the Cowboys themselves. The richest owners in sports tend to have made their billions in outside business ventures before purchasing a team.
That’s the path David Tepper took before buying the Carolina Panthers. Like Cohen, he made a caps-lock FORTUNE managing successful hedge funds.
Panthers fans should remember this ranking the next time their team is reluctant to pony up for one of their own star players. Tepper has the wealth to cover the bill. Trust us.