Trailer Parks, Video Games & Amway: How Sports Owners Made Their Money


Owning a professional sports franchise is my dream job. I'm willing to relocate.

I'd be one of the more meddlesome executives fans love to hate. I'd demand a say in who we drafted and redesign our uniforms. I'd deliver dramatic missives via sports-talk radio and send cryptic messages through the press. And I'd encourage local schoolchildren to mail Christmas cards to my dog, who'd have her own luxury box and a cartoon on our cable network.

Of course, not counting the NHL, I could never afford a pro sports team. There's a better chance I'll miraculously develop an unhittable slider, or learn to punt.

You obviously must be exceedingly rich to become an owner. Did you ever wonder how all these people made all that money? I sure hope you did, because we went and did all this research. What follows is a list of ten billionaire owners and how they built their fortunes.

Rich DeVos
Orlando Magic (NBA)

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Robert L. Johnson
Charlotte Bobcats (NBA)

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Robert Kraft
New England Patriots (NFL)

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Another reason I'm so keen on owning a team is the access to foreign heads of state. In 2005, Kraft met Vladimir Putin, who walked off with one of Kraft's Super Bowl rings. Kraft now claims it was a gift, but that might just be what you say when a Russian leader steals your jewelry.

Hiroshi Yamauchi
Seattle Mariners (MLB)

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In addition to not caring for baseball, Yamauchi also prided himself on never playing a video game.

Jerry Jones
Dallas Cowboys (NFL)

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An undersized guard, Jones was captain of the 1965 Cotton Bowl-winning Arkansas Razorbacks. Future Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson was a teammate; Johnson's successor, Barry Switzer, was a Razorbacks assistant.

Jones bought the Cowboys for an estimated $140 million in 1989. He immediately made waves by firing Tom Landry "“ the only coach in Cowboys history "“ and replacing him with his college buddy (the aforementioned University of Miami coach, Jimmy Johnson). After a rocky 1-15 start in 1989, the Cowboys went on to win three Super Bowls in the 1990s.

Malcolm Glazer
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL), Manchester United (English Premier League)

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Glazer made five previous attempts to join the elite ranks of NFL ownership, including a failed 1993 bid to bring an expansion team to Baltimore. The New York Times said Glazer had "a reputation as a franchise window shopper, one who looks at virtually every team that comes up for sale." But in 1995, he outbid George Steinbrenner for the downtrodden Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Under his leadership, the franchise was righted, earning a Super Bowl title in 2003. Glazer also bought Manchester United, and fans weren't exactly pleased.

Stanley Kroenke
Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), St. Louis Rams (NFL "“ partial owner)

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Daniel Gilbert
Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA)

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Stephen Bisciotti
Baltimore Ravens (NFL)

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Mark Cuban
Dallas Mavericks (NBA)

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Many of you probably already knew how Cuban made his fortune. But we like his blog and think he'd make a terrific mental_floss intern. This opens the door.

How other owners made their money: Arthur Blank, Atlanta Falcons (NFL): co-founder of Home Depot; Paul Allen, Seattle Seahawks (NFL) and Portland Trail Blazers (NBA): co-founder of Microsoft; Woody Johnson, New York Jets (NFL): Johnson & Johnson heir; Micky Arison, Miami Heat (NBA): CEO of Carnival (Cruise) Corporation, which was founded by his father; Bill Davidson, Detroit Pistons (NBA) & Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL): family started Guardian Industrial (manufacturing auto mirrors and windshields); Glen Taylor, Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA): Taylor Corp (printing empire).

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If your local owners aren't on this list, please add the story of how they built their fortunes below. Thanks again to my anonymous library scientist friend for all her wonderful research.

Previously on mental_floss:

Spectacular Stories of Storied Spectators
"¢ Quiz: The Most Humiliating Scandals in Sports
"¢ Quiz: The Hall of Fame Game
Sports Too Deadly for Gym Class
Superstars in Super Strange Uniforms