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Professional sports is a rare phenomenon in which people rich and poor can share equal enthusiasm for it. When a popular sporting event takes place, everyone is held in its thrall regardless of their economic situation, and this goes for everybody from the janitor living paycheck to paycheck to the most affluent hedge-fund manager with a Park Avenue address. When the score is tied, the clock is running out and the ball hangs in the air, we are all momentarily free of any economic class, and we all become simple sports fans.
Nothing could better illustrate this than the billionaire sports team owner. Sure, a popular sports team can be a lucrative investment that provides a revenue stream for years. However, one gets the sense that for the billionaire sports team owner, it's more than just another asset — it's a passion, and one that he or she is lucky to be able to afford. Click ahead to see some of the billionaires from all over the world who have added a major sports team (or two) to their vast portfolios.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 16 February 2012
Team: Tottenham Hotspur Football Club
Net Worth: $4.2 billion
Joe Lewis is an English entrepreneur who made a fortune thanks to the events of Sept. 16, 1992, or "Black Wednesday." A currency trader, Lewis bet the pound sterling, the official currency of the U.K., would plunge in valuewhen the British government withdrew it from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. He was right, and he profited from his bearish attitude.
Lewis is the founder of the Tavistock Group, a private investment company headquartered in Florida. The company has investments in over 200 companies internationally, including the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, known to its fans as the Spurs. The team was the winner of the 2008 Football League Cup Final.
In 2010, Lewis' net worth was $4.2 billion, according to MSN Money, despite the fact that he owned 11 million shares of Bear Stearns when it collapsed in 2008, costing him over $1 billion.
Team: Miami Heat
Net worth: $4.2 billion
The Miami Heat basketball team is owned by Micky Arison, the Israeli-American chief executive officer of Carnival Corp. Carnival is the largest cruise operator in the world, and it consists of 11 different cruise-line brands with over 100 ships. Carnival also owns Holland America Princess Alaska Tours, and altogether attracts 8.5 million pleasure seekers per year.
Carnival was co-founded in 1972 by Arison's father, Ted, who also formed the Miami Heat in 1988. After he died in 1999, control of both the Carnival Corp. and the team passed to Micky Arison, whose net worth is $4.2 billion as of September 2011.
Recently, the company came under fire when the cruise ship Costa Concordia, which is owned by Carnival, ran aground off the coast of Tuscany on Jan. 13, killing 17 people.
Team: Atlanta Braves
Net worth: $4.5 billion
The Atlanta Braves baseball team is owned by Liberty Media Corp., whose chairman is John Malone. Between that and his gig as CEO of Discovery Holding Co., he's made a nice living. So nice, in fact, that on Jan. 28, 2011, The New York Times reported that his upcoming purchase of 980,000 acres of land in the North Woods of Maine would make him the largest individual private owner of land in the U.S., leaving Ted Turner, who once owned the Braves, to eat his dust from the distant vantage point of second place.
Malone's business career dates to 1963. He worked in research and development at Bell Telephone Laboratories, and by 1970 he was a vice president at the now-defunct General Instrument, all before turning 30. In 1973 he joined Tele-Communications Inc., where he was president and chief executive officer until 1996. In 2009 Malone, dubbed "Darth Vader" by former Vice President Al Gore for his allegedly hardnosed business practices, gained a 40 percent stake in Sirius XM Radio. His net worth is $4.5 billion, according to The Street.com .
Team: Seattle Mariners
Net worth: $4.6 million
Hiroshi Yamauchi became president of Nintendo purely by chance. His grandfather, the company's president, had a stroke, and with no successor in place Yamauchi left university to help his family's imperiled company. That was 1949, and he stayed as president until 2002. During that time, he gradually transformed Nintendo from a manufacturer of playing cards to videogame consoles. The rest is very profitable history.
In 1992, he bought the Seattle Mariners. The purchase was controversial since nobody from outside North America had ever before owned a U.S. baseball team. Yamauchi agreed to keep the team in Seattle. As of March 2011, Yamauchi had a net worth of $4.6 billion.
Team: Orlando Magic
Net worth: $5 billion
Richard DeVos is the co-founder of Amway, the direct selling company established in 1959. In 1991, he purchased the Orlando Magic for a reported $85 million. His net worth is reported to be $5 billion .
It wasn't the businessman's first time as the owner of a sports team, having owned three others in the now-defunct International Hockey League. Still, fans of the NBA's Orlando Magic could hardly have been put at ease when DeVos announced after the purchase, "We don't know anything about this business."
Team: Associazione Calcio Milan
Net worth: $6.2 billion
Silvio Berlusconi is best known as the scandal-plagued former prime minister of Italy. However, the political arena is just one of several in which Il Cavaliere has been involved in his 75 years. The one-time cruise ship crooner and former vacuum cleaner salesman is the owner of Mediaset, the largest commercial broadcaster in Italy, and of Associazione Calcio Milan, the professional Italian football club.
Although Berlusconi's tenure as prime minister was marked by sex scandals, what ultimately did him in was the European debt crisis, which cost him his party's majority in parliament. He nonetheless described himself as the best prime minister that the country had ever had in its 150 years. He announced that he would return to Associazione Calcio Milan in 2012 as its president, but the company's presidency currently remains vacant. His net worth was$6.2 billion, as of November.
Teams: Seattle Seahawks & Portland Trail Blazers
Net worth: $13.5 billion
Bill Gates may be the face of Microsoft, but he didn't found the company by himself. He split the heavy lifting with Paul Allen, who and negotiated the deal that led to the fledgling software company supplying IBM with the DOS operating system.
Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma just a few years after the company was founded, and he left to allow himself time to recover. Today, Allen is the chairman of Vulcan Inc., an investment firm he founded in 1986, and he is the owner of the National Football League's Seattle Seahawks and the National Basketball Association's Portland Trail Blazers. His net worth is $13.5 billion, according to Wealth-X.
Team: Chelsea Football Club
Net worth: $15 billion
Millhouse Capital is a holding company registered in the U.K. It manages the assets of one Roman Abramovich, a Russian businessman whose fortune was estimated in October to be $15 billion, according to The Telegraph.
One of the assets in Abramovich's multibillion dollar portfolio is the Chelsea Football Club, a top-tier organization that is no stranger to the trophy cabinet. Abramovich purchased the team in 2003 while serving as governor of Russia's Chukotka region.
Team: New Jersey Nets
Net worth: $18 billion
Like Abramovich, Mikhail Prokhorov is one of the new breed of Russians who have embraced capitalism with a vigor that would make Karl Marx turn over in his grave. He made his money in the precious metals sector, both as the head of Norilsk Nickel and as chairman of Polyus Gold. Prokhorov invested his money in several different ventures, including the New Jersey Nets basketball team, which he bought in 2010.
After the purchase was approved by the NBA, he made a statement that appealed to longtime fans and newcomers alike. "Today's vote will give the NBA a greater global reach and bring a multitude of new fans to the game of basketball," Prokhorov said. "For those who are already fans of the Nets and the NBA, I intend to give you plenty to cheer about."
Recently, Prokhorov announced his intention to run for president of Russia. He pledged that if he won, he would donate almost all of his $18 billion fortune to charity.
Team: Manchester City Football Club
Net worth: $31.6 billion
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is a member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi, and his net worth of $31.6 billion makes it accurate to characterize him as "well off." In 2005, he chaired the International Petroleum Investment Co., which invests in energy-related industries across the globe, and was a member of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. In 2007, he became chairman of the Emirates Investment Authority.
Good gigs all, but Al Nahyan's real passion is sport. In 2008, the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment, a company owned by the sheikh, purchased the Manchester City Football Club and immediately made headlines when they signed Brazilian footballer Robson "Robinho" de Souza to a four-year contract worth over $51 million.