Michael Jordan Is A Billionaire Thanks To Soaring NBA Team Values

Forbes does great sports business analysis, but they have been too conservative. The Milwaukee Bucks, valued by the business site at $US410 million, sold for $550 million in April. The Los Angeles Clippers, valued at $US575 million, sold for $2 billion in May. Franchise values are rising for many reasons, with new TV deals in particular set to drive them to record highs. Even if billionaire Steve Ballmer overpaid for the Clippers (Stern School of Business valuation expert Aswath Damodaran puts their value at $US1.6 billion), it is clear we have entered the new value paradigm faster than expected.

With every team is worth more than expected, every owner is, too, and the bump should be more than enough to make Charlotte Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan a billionaire.

Jordan’s net worth was estimated at $750 million in February in a thorough analysis by Forbes’s Kurt Badenhausen. The NBA legend earned an estimated $US90 million in 2013, more than any current athlete including current NBA leader LeBron James, who earned an estimated $US60 million. His wealth comes primarily from an unprecedented deal with Nike, with his line of shoes alone selling $US2.25 billion in the U.S. last year, along with other endorsement deals, business holdings, and very high pay during his playing career.

But he also owns 80% of the Hornets, and that asset is suddenly looking a lot more valuable.

Although the Hornets (then Bobcats) franchise was valued at $US175 million when Jordan bought a 80% share in 2010, its projected value increased quickly. By 2013, the team was already worth $US410 million and expected to rise significantly in the near future, according to Forbes. Badenhausen concluded in a February article that Jordan’s “earnings prowess shows no sign of letting up and should land him a spot on Forbes billionaire list in the coming years.” Within months, however, NBA team values would skyrocket.

The Bucks sold for 34% more than Forbes’s projection. The Clippers sold for 148% more. Let’s split the difference and say Jordan’s Hornets are worth 91% more than projected, putting their current value at $US783 million. That would put Jordan’s share at $US626 million, rather than the $US328 million figure Badenhausen used, raising his new estimated net worth to $US1,048 million.

Yes, this recalculation is fairly arbitrary, but all indicators point to it being on the right track. Damodaran’s Clippers valuation would suggest an even higher figure. And Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban predicts every team will be worth at least a billion dollars soon, making Jordan even richer.

All things considered, it seems fair to say Jordan is a billionaire — and as great as his legacy was as a player, his net worth may be even harder to match.

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