One of the biggest topics of discussion surrounding the Chicago Bears is ownership. Rumors have persisted for months that the franchise might be in a succession crisis. Virginia McCaskey is 99-years old and suffering from health problems. It isn’t clear how much time she has left, but rumblings persist that once she is gone, it is possible some of the younger generations in the family would prefer to sell the team.
Some theorized those people don’t want to be in the football business anymore. However, there is a more practical explanation for this. In the NFL, teams that a family has owned for 10 years or more were required to control at least 30% of the organization. The difficult part was that the owners must each hold at least 5% of that stake. Once Virginia passes, her successors would have to pay to hold that 5%. Remembering the Bears were last valued at $4 billion, equating to $200 million.
That is a lot of money for someone who may only get their money from the team itself.
This is why certain families have been forced to sell their teams in the past, something the NFL has worked to correct for years. Now they seem to have found a solution. According to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic, the league owners conducted a vote to make it considerably easier for family members to maintain control of a franchise.
“NFL owners voted Tuesday to lower the minimum percentage of a team that a longstanding owner must control from 5 percent to 1 percent, a nod to skyrocketing franchise valuations and the difficulty that trend places on keeping teams in families. And in particular, teams whose core holdings are the team itself.
The new rule only applies to teams that have been owned by the same owner for at least 10 years, and those clubs must have a total of 30 percent of the franchise controlled by members of the owning family. New owners would still have to own individually at least 30 percent from the start.”
This is a godsend for the McCaskey family.
In fact, Kaplan was told the rule was specifically designed with them in mind. They and the Mara family of the New York Giants.
Frank Hawkins, a former NFL finance executive, believes the recent drop is aimed, for now, at two teams: the Giants and Bears, clubs controlled by families with many siblings and looming estate-planning issues.
“Considering that it’s only for long-standing ownership families, I think that it relates to the need to give them (the Giants and Bears) structures that they’re going to be able to make work if they want to stay in the league,” he said.
Paying $40 million for a stake is far more appetizing than $200 million. That much is certain. With this new loophole, some of the younger McCaskeys may not feel as inclined to sell the team once Virginia is gone. No doubt that makes her son George happy since he was the one who would be faced with handling the succession crisis upon her death.
Chicago Bears are likely staying in the family moving forward.
The one person who is happiest about this development is Virginia herself. One of her biggest fears was the idea of the Bears being owned by anybody that isn’t of the George Halas bloodline. Her father built the organization from the ground up, taking it from a $100 investment to one of the class organizations in professional football. It is impossible in her mind to imagine anybody not carrying Halas’s DNA to own the franchise.
Now she no longer has to worry. It will be far easier for the family to work this problem out, and the NFL can be thanked for it. The Chicago Bears will be able to focus their efforts on cultivating the new Arlington Park property and begin constructing their brand-new stadium.
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