Professional sports can bring out passion in players, fans and viewers like no other business on the planet, but they are also very much a business. To put it into perspective, the sector is expected to generate $80 billion in the North American market and $660 billion globally by 2022.
As other industries wrestle with today’s shifting generational landscape and game-changing advances in technology, professional sports have their own set of challenges, disruptions and opportunities. Athletes and teams are becoming content creators through their social media accounts, and the trend could become even more impactful in the future as personal and team brands reach fans that have been entirely raised in the digital age.
Sports teams in particular have found that more offence generates more excitement and, consequently, more viewership. Defence may win games, but teams are adjusting their playing strategies to win viewers as well. From personalising fan engagement to recognising the mental health issues that many athletes face, the global sports sector is being redefined.
As the sports industry adapts and advances, an area that may seem remarkably constant is the number of franchises that remain family-owned. Here is a list of the top five family-owned sports teams.
Owner: Jeanie Marie Buss
Value (2018): $3.3 billion
Based in Los Angeles, the Lakers are one of the most successful and popular professional franchises in sports. With a combined 16 Basketball Association of America and National Basketball Association (NBA) titles, the Lakers are second only to their longstanding rivals, the Boston Celtics.
Founded in 1947 by Ben Berger and Morris Chalfen, who purchased the National Basketball League’s disbanded Detroit Gems, the franchise moved to Minneapolis and became “the Lakers” to reflect the state’s nickname of “land of 10,000 lakes.” The team joined the newly created NBA in 1949 and moved to Los Angeles prior to the 1960–61 season due to poor attendance in Minneapolis. Jack Kent Cooke subsequently became the team’s owner.
Cooke, who also owned the Washington Red Skins, sold the franchise in 1979 to chemist and businessman Jerry Buss, who led the organisation to 10 NBA championships. After his death in 2013, Buss’s 66 per cent controlling ownership of the Lakers passed to his six children. Jerry Buss’s daughter, Jeanie Marie Buss, serves as president of the organisation and has been previously named as one of the Top 20 Most Influential Women in Sports by Sporting News.
All-star players such as Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Steve Nash have helped build the Los Angeles Lakers’ popularity the world over.
Owner: Robert Kraft
Value (2018): $3.7 billion
The last franchise awarded by the fledgeling American Football League, printer Billy Sullivan became owner of the team in 1959. Originally the Boston Patriots, the team changed their name after they moved to a Boston suburb following the NFL and AFL merger in 1970.
After some early success and several playoff appearances without winning the championship, the team suffered an eight-year post-season drought beginning in 1987. During this period, the team changed hands a number of times before local businessman Robert Kraft purchased the franchise in 1994.
Under Kraft and his son Jonathan A. Kraft, who acts as the team’s president, the Patriots have enjoyed numerous winning seasons, including six Super Bowl championships. Acclaimed quarterback Tom Brady and venerable coach Bill Belichick have contributed to the New England Patriots’ popularity across the globe.
Owner: Hal Steinbrenner
Value (2018): $4 billion
One of the most well-known and celebrated sports franchises of all time, the Yankees have won a record 27 World Series titles and 40 American League pennants. The team began in 1901 in Baltimore, Maryland, where it competed in the American League for two seasons before being purchased by William Stephen Devery and Frank J. Farrell. William and Frank moved the franchise to New York and named it the New York Highlanders.
Coined the “Yankees” by sports writers, the name was officially adopted in 1913. The team rarely contended for a championship before acquiring legendary slugger Babe Ruth in 1920. In 1923, the franchise won its first World Series championship and would go on to dominate the sport with such notable players as Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.
From 1915 to 1964, the franchise changed owners several times, eventually being sold to a group headed by George Steinbrenner in 1973. Steinbrenner would later buy out his partners and secure 70 per cent ownership of the team. A colourful personality, and known for being temperamental, Steinbrenner changed managers of his team 20 times in the first 23 seasons. He eventually turned over daily operations of the club to his two sons, Hank and Hal. After his father’s death in 2010, Hal Steinbrenner assumed control of the club.
Popular players such as Reggie Jackson, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter have contributed to the worldwide popularity of the franchise.
Owner: Glazer family
Country: United Kingdom
Value (2018): $4.1 billion
Founded as Newton Heath LYR Football Club in 1878, the team was the works squad of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. After splitting from the railway and falling on financial hardship, the team was purchased by local brewery owner John Henry Davies, who changed the name to Manchester United in 1902 and moved the club to its current stadium, Old Trafford, in 1910.
The club would go on to win 66 major trophies, including the League Championship a record 20 times. Manchester United has won 12 FA Cups, five League Cups, three European/Champions League Cups and one Cup in both the UEFA and UEFA Europe League.
The franchise changed owners several times and was the target of numerous takeover bids during the 60s, 70s and 80s. In 1990, the club went public, and in 2003, businessman Malcolm Glazer began actively increasing his shareholding until taking majority control in 2005, eventually delisting the company from the stock exchange. After his death in 2014, Malcolm’s 90 per cent stake in Manchester United was equally split among his six children. Today, Sons Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer are the team’s co-chairmen.
Recognised as one of the world’s most famous and storied sports teams, “The Red Devils” have boasted a litany of soccer superstars, including George Best, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Owner: Jerry Jones
Value (2018): $4.8 billion
The NFL’s first modern-era expansion team, the Dallas Cowboys, did not win a single game their first season in 1960. It would take another six years before the club posted a winning record, but under owner Clint Murchison Jr., and with Tom Landry as head coach, the Dallas Cowboys would eventually become one of the most successful sports powerhouses, known around the world and accompanied by a cheerleading squad almost as famous.
Known as “America’s Team” during the ’70s and ’80s, the organisation was well ahead of its contemporaries in the then-burgeoning areas of marketing and promotion. Championships were also delivered, with the team claiming two consecutive NFC titles three different times from 1970 to 1993 and two Super Bowl wins in 1972 and 1978.
Murchison sold the team in 1984 to H. R. Bright. After a series of losing seasons, he sold the team to oil and land-lease executive Jerry Jones in 1989. Jones would replace Landry, who retired with the third most victories of any coach in NFL history, with Jimmy Johnson. Thanks in large part to future Hall-of-Famer Troy Aikman, the franchise returned to championship status just four years after Jones acquired the team.
Under Jones, the Cowboys have won three Super Bowl championships and set record television revenues for his team and the NFL. Jones himself is credited for securing the NFL’s place as the world’s richest sports league through the broadcasting rights he negotiated with Fox. Jones and others have credited the extraordinary popularity of the franchise to having a “vision” for the team at a time before such a thing was widely adopted in the world of sports.