Fantasy sports is a multi-billion-dollar industry that allows everyday folks the opportunity “own” their sports teams.
But for these financial titans, it’s not a fantasy. They’ve made so much money as bankers, fund managers, and venture capitalists that they can now afford to live the dream for real.
Also, owning a professional sports franchise is the ultimate status symbol. And in a world where the one with most toys wins, toys don’t get much bigger than your own ball club.
(Plus, there’s a whole lot more fame involved owning the St. Louis Cardinals than being Chairman of an Ohio-based private investment firm.)
But in order for these owners to keep their toys, they’ve got to perform on and off the field. That’s why it doesn’t hurt that these guys know how to manage money, which is key to success in any sport (or business).
Alas, not everyone on this list has been so shrewd. That’s why one of its members (Tom Hicks) had to surrender a teams to another (John Henry.)
Ellis Short owns Lone Star Funds, a private equity fund with $24 billion in capital that got in trouble with the South Korean government in 2007. The American took control of Sunderland in September of 2008, and even owns a castle.
Team value: ~82 million pounds (~$123 million) (transfer market value in 2011)
This season's record: 9-10-7, 7th place in the English Premier League
Jeff Vinik, who runs the Boston-based hedge fund, Vinik Asset Management, bought the Tampa Bay Lightning in early March 2010 for around $110 million.
Team value: ~$191 million (in 2010)
This season's record: 33-17-5, 1st place in the NHL's Southeast Division
Jeffrey Vanderbeek worked at Lehman Brothers for 20 years, eventually becoming an Executive Vice President at the firm. He left Lehman in 2004 when he bought the Devils, an organisation he had held a minority stake in for 4 years, outright.
Vanderbeek recently announced that he is seeking new minority partners for the Devils, but does not plan to give up his controlling stake.
Team value: ~$223 million (in 2010)
This season's record: 20-30-4, 4th place in the NHL's Atlantic Division
Tom Hicks co-founded the investment firm, Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst and is chairman of Hicks Holdings LLC, which owns and operates Hicks Sports Group. His company sold the Texas Rangers and English football's Liverpool FC last year, but kept hold of the Dallas Stars.
Team value: ~$246 million (in 2010)
This season's record: 30-18-5, 1st place in the NHL's Pacific Division
Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire chairman of Polyus Gold (Russia's largest gold producer) and President of Onexim Group (one of it's biggest investment groups) now owns 80% of the New Jersey Nets. Prokhorov bought the team in September of 2009, and now he's the primary owner, alongside part owners Jay Z and Bruce Ratner.
Team value: ~$269 million (in 2009)
This season's record: 15-37, 12th place in the NBA's Eastern Conference
Joe Lacob became a partner at Silicon Valley-based venture capital investment juggernaut Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 1987. He dove into sports in 2010, spearheading the investment group that purchased the Warriors.
Team value: ~$315 million (in 2009)
This season's record: 22-28, 12th place in the NBA's Western Conference
Stuart Sternberg, a retired Goldman Sachs trader, owns a controlling stake in the Tampa Bay Rays with two partners, Matthew Silverman and Andrew Friedman.
Team value: ~$316 million (in 2010)
Last season's record: 96-66, 1st place in MLB's AL East
Mark Attanasio is an executive at a pair of money management firms, TCW/Crescent Mezzanine and Trust Company of the West. The Bronx native purchased the Brewers in 2004 from the family of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.
Team value: ~$351 million (in 2010)
Last season's record: 77-85, 3rd place in MLB's NL Central
Jim Pohlad is an Executive Vice President at Marquette Financial, a financial services company that is part of the Pohlad family portfolio. He inherited the Twins after the death of his father, Carl Pohlad, in 2009.
Team value: ~$405 million (in 2010)
Last season's record: 94-68, 1st place in MLB's AL Central
Robert Sarver founded the National Bank of Arizona in 1984, which he sold a decade later to Zions Bancorp. A year later he acquired Grossmont Bank, which also eventually merged into Zions. He bought the Suns from sports mogul Jerry Colangelo in 2004.
Team value: ~$429 million (in 2009)
This season's record: 24-25, 10th place in the NBA's Western Conference
Wycliffe Grousbeck was a partner at Highland Capital Partners, a Massachusetts-based venture capital firm, for 7 years. He led a group of investors in buying the Celtics in 2002 and earned an NBA Championship in 2008.
Team value: ~$433 million (in 2009)
This season's record: 38-13, 1st place in the NBA's Eastern Conference
Starting his career as a Wall Street stock trader, Leslie Anderson founded the investment company The Alexander Group in 1980 and now owns a stake in student loan company First Marblehead. He purchased the Rockets in 1993 and opened their new arena, the Toyota centre, in 2003.
Team value: ~$470 million (in 2009)
This season's record: 25-29, 11th place in the NBA's Western Conference
Dan Gilbert is the founder and current chairman of Quicken Loans, which is the nation's largest online home lender, according to his website. He bought the Cavs in 2005 and recently entered the national spotlight when he published an angry letter in the wake of LeBron James' infamous decision to leave for Miami.
Team value: ~$476 million (in 2009)
This season's record: 8-44, 15th place in the NBA's Eastern Conference
William DeWitt Jr. co-founded Reynolds, DeWitt & Co., an investment firm specializing in corporate acquisitions and financing. He bought the Cardinals from the Busch family in 1995.
Team value: ~$488 million (in 2010)
Last season's record: 86-76, 2nd place in MLB's NL Central
Billionaire financier Lester Crown owns part of the Chicago Bulls and New York Yankees. He is most famous for running General Dynamics and Henry Crown & Co, founded by Crown's late father.
Team value: Bulls: ~$511 million (in 2009)
This season's record: 34-16, 3rd place in the NBA's Eastern Conference
Though they first invested in the Mets back in 1980, the Wilpon family (and their company, Sterling Equities), bought the team outright in 2002 from Nelson Doubleday Jr. However, he may not be able to hold on to them much longer, as Sterling Equities invested in and made a killing off of Bernie Madoff's infamous Ponzi scheme and is being sued by trustees in charge of the bankruptcy.
Team value: ~$858 million (in 2010)
Last season's record: 79-83, 4th place in MLB's NL East
Tom Benson founded Benson Financial, a financial services firm valued at $440 million that he sold to Wells Fargo in 1996. He purchased the Saints back in 1985 with money from his auto dealership empire.
Team value: ~$955 million (in 2010)
Last season's record: 11-5, 2nd place in the NFL's NFC South
Clark Hunt was an analyst at Goldman Sachs before becoming CEO of an investment company, Shoreline Management Group. He inherited the Chiefs, along with FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew of the MLS, upon the death of his father and founder of the AFL and MLS, Lamar Hunt.
Team value: ~$965 million (in 2010)
Last season's record: 10-6, 1st place in the NFL's AFC West
John Henry made his millions in futures and foreign exchange for John W. Henry and Company. He led the group which purchased Red Sox in 2002 and ventured into English soccer when he bought Liverpool FC (from Tom Hicks) last year.
Last season's record: 89-73, 3rd place in MLB's AL East
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