June 25, 2022

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Sports Really Satisfies

Broncos sell for $4.65B: Where it ranks among most expensive American sports franchise sales

The Denver Broncos are getting new owners. The team will be sold for a reported price tag of $4.65 billion to an ownership group that is led by Walmart heir Rob Walton. The Walton-Penner family will acquire the NFL franchise from the Pat Bowlen Trust, but it still needs to be approved by the NFL’s finance committee and league ownership before it can become official.

The Bowlen family has owned the Broncos since 1984, when they bought the franchise for $78 million. Pat Bowlen died in 2019, but his trust had been running the franchise following his death.

If $4.65 billion ends up being the final number, the Broncos sale would set a record for the most money paid for an American sports franchise. That record currently belongs to the Brooklyn Nets, who were sold for $2.35 billion in August 2019. In terms of the NFL landscape, the record was set when David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers for $2.275 billion back in 2018.

There have been a few American sports franchises that have sold for at least $1.2 billion: The Toronto Maple Leafs were sold for $1.3 billion in 2011 while the Buffalo Bills, Miami Marlins, and Seattle Mariners sold for $1.2 billion.

However, $2 billion is kind of uncharted territory. With the Broncos sale set to be so massive, here’s a look at the most expensive American sports franchise sales in history, which total at least $2 billion. 

New York Mets: $2.4 billion (2020)

Businessman Steve Cohen bought the New York Mets for $2.4 billion back in 2020. It is the most money ever paid to buy a Major League Baseball team, as it passed the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. The Wilpon family had owned the Mets for the previous 34 years before Cohen bought the team. 

Brooklyn Nets: $2.35 billion (2019)

The NBA also recently set a record for the largest team sale in the league’s history. Businessman Joseph Tsai had owned just 49 percent of the franchise, but was able to come to a deal with majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov for full ownership of the team. Tsai had originally bought his first stake of the Nets in 2017.

Carolina Panthers: $2.275 billion (2018)

If the Broncos’ sale does end up being for $4.65 billion, it will easily surpass the previous record paid for an NFL franchise. Hedge fund manager David Tepper purchased the Panthers from previous owner Jerry Richardson for $2.275 billion in 2018. Richardson was forced to sell the franchise after being fined nearly $3 million by the league for sexual and racial misconduct. Tepper also owns the city’s Major League Soccer franchise, Charlotte FC.

Houston Rockets: $2.2 billion (2017)

Prior to the Nets setting the new record of $2.35 billion, Houston-area businessman Tilman Fertitta purchased the Rockets for $22 billion from previous owner Leslie Alexander. Fertitta had also attempted to buy the NFL’s Houston Texans and the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes in the past.

Los Angeles Dodgers: $2.15 billion (2012)

In 2012, Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt were in the middle of an ugly divorce. As a result, the family was forced to sell the team for $2 billion to Guggenheim Baseball Management, which included former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson. It was a record price tag at the time, before the Rockets surpassed that total in 2017.

Los Angeles Clippers: $2 billion (2014)

That’s right, there were a pair of high-profile sales involving professional sports teams in Los Angeles over a two-year period. The NBA forced previous owner Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers after he made racist comments. Sterling was fined $2.5 million and banned from the NBA for life on top of having to sell the team. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer bought the Clippers for $2 billion, which was just short of the Dodgers record from two years prior.