With the 2012 MLB season getting under way, the biggest moves in baseball’s off-season were focused on the teams rather than the players.
The league shook up the playoff structure, adding an additional one game wild-card round, while also announcing that the Houston Astros will become an American League team in 2013. More recently, the financially troubled L.A. Dodgers were auctioned off, with a record-breaking bid of $2.15 billion coming in from an investment group that included former NBA star Magic Johnson.
Team owners are among the richest people in the country, and their purchases of big league teams offer a business model that is relatively different than that of other professional sports in the country.
Whereas the NFL negotiates highly profitable national television contracts, conducts aggressive revenue sharing and imposes salary-cap restrictions, professional baseball teams are given more leeway in their operations.
Without national TV contracts, many MLB teams own highly profitable regional sports networks, while the absence of a hard salary cap has allowed payrolls of some teams to go through the roof.
With all the money involved in the sport, the question remains: who is the richest owner in baseball?
Wealth-X,a global wealth intelligence firm, analyzed information in its proprietary database on owners and controlling partners of MLB teams to see who has the highest personal net worth. The overall net worth figure provided by Wealth-X factors in a range of assets, including shares in companies, real estate, cash, art collections, private planes and other investable assets, including an estimated value for the ownership stake in a given team. Excluded from the list were the Atlanta Braves, owned by Liberty Media and the Toronto Blue Jays, owned by Rogers Communications, since these teams are not controlled by a single individual with an ownership stake.
So, which MLB teams have the richest owners? Click ahead for the Top 10.
By Paul Toscano
Posted 3 April 2012
Estimated net worth: $1.1 billion
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
The 10th-richest owner is the chairman and principal owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Robert Nutting. According to Wealth-X, the net worth of Nutting and his family comes to $1.1 billion, with a majority ($630 million) arising from their ownership of Ogden Newspapers, which owns papers in 13 states, according to the company’s website. Other assets include an estimated $250 million stake in the Pirates, a $95 million stake in Pennsylvania’s Seven Springs Mountain Resort and approximately $130 million in liquid assets.
Chairman of the board since 2003, Nutting took over the Pirates in early 2007, replacing another newspaper man, Kevin McClatchy, who had controlling stake in the team since 1996. Since becoming the Pirates’ principal owner, Nutting has developed the team’s spring training complex as well as its farm system and founded the team’s philanthropic arm, Pirates Charities,in 2010.
Estimated net worth: $1.1 billion
Team: Minnesota Twins
One of the most economically influential families in the Minneapolis area, the Pohlads have invested in everything from real estate, banking, insurance and aerospace, in addition to the Twins. After the 2009 passing of his father, Carl, Jim Pohlad inherited control of the organization and serves as CEO. Jim Pohlad was involved in his father’s purchase of the Twins in 1984, working on a financial analysis of the $44 million deal. More recently he worked on the deal with local authorities that led to the construction of a new, $545 million venue for the Twins, Target Field, for which the Pohlad family contributed $185 million.
According to Wealth-X, Pohlad’s ownership stake of the Twins comes to approximately $170 million, or about 15 percent of his $1.1 billion net worth. Among his other large holdings are an estimated $600 million in liquid assets, a $350 million stake in Pohlad Family Companies and a $6 million home in Aspen, Colo.
Estimated net worth: $1.15 billion
Team: Boston Red Sox
Wealth-X says John W. Henry II’s share of the Red Sox through his ownership in the Fenway Sports Group is worth approximately $840 million. The group also owns the English Premier League football club, Liverpool F.C. Aside from his stake in sports franchises, Henry has $170 million in liquid assets, a $34 million luxury yacht named the Iroquois and $25 million in holdings of the John W. Henry Co. (JWH).
Henry generated his wealth after founding JWH in 1982. An asset management firm, JWH focuses on futures trading using proprietary trend-following techniques developed by Henry. According to the company’s 2012 disclosures, the firm currently has $162 million in assets under management.
Henry has always had a love of sports and began purchasing and selling stakes in minor league and semi-professional teams in the late 1980’s. He graduated to MLB ownership when he took a 1 percent share of the New York Yankees in 1991 and eventually became the sole owner of the Florida Marlins in 1999, purchasing the team from Wayne Huizenga for $158 million. After selling the team in 2002, Henry led the purchase of the Red Sox, along with Tom Werner and The New York Times.
Estimated net worth: $1.3 billion
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
The biggest off-season shuffle in baseball this year was not a trade for a star player, but the sale of the storied Dodgers. Magic Johnson and longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten broke records with their winning bid of $2.15 billion, easily surpassing the record $1.47 billion paid for England’s Manchester United in 2005. As part of the Dodgers deal, controlling ownership of the team rests with Mark Walter through Guggenheim Baseball Management. Although the sky-high purchase price was immediately questioned and the new owners have several hurdles ahead,the purchase shook up valuations for other teams, with some suggesting that the Yankees' value could be pushed to as much as $2.85 billion.
Despite criticism about the price tag, Walter is no stranger to investing. His track record has helped him amass a $1.3 billion net worth. Walter is currently the CEO of Guggenheim Partners, a private financial firm focusing on asset management, investment banking and capital markets services as well as investment advisory for organizations. Of Walter’s $1.3 billion net worth, approximately $1.1 billion is composed of his stake in Guggenheim Partners, while he has an estimated $70 million in liquid assets and a home in Chicago worth $2.5 million, according to Wealth-X. If the sale goes through at $2.15 billion, Walter’s slice of the Dodgers will be worth about $130 million.
Estimated net worth: $1.5 billion
Team: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Arturo “Art” Moreno bought the Angels from the Walt Disney Co. in 2003 for $183 million. With the purchase, Moreno became the first Hispanic owner of a major U.S. sports team. He quickly became a fan favorite, and boosted attendance, by signing big-name players like Vladimir Guerrero while slashing prices for tickets, concessions and souvenirs. However, he lost favor with some fans and was even sued by the city of Anaheim after spearheading the team’s name change in 2005 from the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Moreno’s wealth consists mainly of stock in CBS Corp., worth an estimated $760 million, $120 million in liquid assets and an estimated $590 million stake in the Angels. Moreno’s wealth began when he was hired by billboard company Outdoor Systems, now a subsidiary of CBS. After rising to president and CEO of Outdoor Systems, he expanded the business exponentially, taking it public in 1996 and selling it to Infinity Broadcasting in a multibillion dollar deal two years later.
Estimated net worth: $1.6 billion
Team: Texas Rangers
In 2010, the Texas Rangers emerged from bankruptcy after a group led by former player Nolan Ryan and sports attorney Chuck Greenberg won a $385 million cash bid for the team. Since the purchase, Greenberg has stepped down and Ryan has become CEO, with Ray Davis and Bob Simpson sitting as co-chairmen of the team’s board.
With Ryan handling day-to-day operations, Davis has been content to be a hands-off owner, telling MLB.com after Greenberg’s resignation that "neither Bob or I expect ever to do another press conference." But according to Wealth-X estimates, Davis's financial stake in the Rangers stands at $200 million.
Davis’ fortune arises from his participation in the energy sector, where he was an executive in Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners between 1996-2007, serving as co-CEO between 2004-07. He owns $865 million in Energy Transfer stock and has an estimated $510 million in liquid assets, according to Wealth-X.
Estimated net worth: $2.1 billion
Team: Seattle Mariners
The majority owner of the Seattle Mariners, Japanese-born Hiroshi Yamauchi, is believed to own the unique distinction of being the only MLB owner to never attend a game played by his or her team. Even recently, when the Mariners traveled to Tokyo to play the first official games of the regular season, Yamauchi was not in attendance, according to AOL's SportingNews. Yamauchi gained control of the team in 1992 in a move that helped open up the MLB to Japanese players.
Yamauchi, who ran Japanese-based Nintendo for over half a century, eventually transferred direct ownership of the Mariners to the company’s U.S. operations. However, Yamauchi remains the company’s largest shareholder and chairman emeritus and is considered to be the team’s owner, with his majority stake represented by the Mariners’ current CEO, Howard Lincoln.
Unfortunately for Yamauchi, his fortunes have taken a dive in recent years along with Nintendo’s stock, which has fallen by over 42 percent in the last 12 months. Most of his $2.1 billion net worth is tied up in Nintendo, while he holds approximately $60 million in liquid assets, according to Wealth-X.
Estimated net worth: $2.4 billion
Team: Detroit Tigers
Ilitch spent four years serving in the Marines after graduating high school and upon returning home signed a three-year deal to play in the Detroit Tigers’ minor league system. A knee injury ended his professional career, but Ilitch went on to found the Little Caesars pizza chain in 1959 in the suburbs of Detroit.
In 1982, Ilitch purchased the struggling Detroit Red Wings for $8 million, turning the franchise around, making it one of the most consistently successful hockey teams in the NHL, winning four Stanley Cups under his ownership. In 1992, Ilitch purchased the Tigers from fellow pizza entrepreneur, Domino’s founder Tom Monaghan. Unlike the Red Wings, the Tigers initiallly flopped under Ilitch's ownership, failing to make the playoffs for over a decade and setting the American League record for most losses (119) in a season in 2003. In 2006, the team finally returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1987.
Most of Ilitch's wealth arises from his ownership of Little Caesar’s Pizza ($1.5 billion), followed by investments in Motor City Casino ($710 million), approximate value of holdings in the Tigers ($380 million) and Red Wings ($310 million), as well as $45 million in liquid assets, according to data provided by Wealth-X.
Estimated net worth: $2.9 billion
Team: Washington Nationals
After the Montreal Expos went into league ownership in 2002, MLB went through a multi-year process to select a new home for the team, eventually moving them to Washington and renaming them the Nationals. With a final sale price of $450 million, Ted Lerner and Lerner Enterprises gained ownership in July 2006.
The majority of Lerner’s wealth was generated by Lerner Enterprises, the real estate firm he started in 1952. The company is the largest private landowner in the Washington area, with a wide portfolio of commercial, retail, residential and hotel properties, as well as Chelsea Piers in New York. According to data from Wealth-X, Lerner holds approximately $2.2 billion of equity in Lerner Enterprises, a $155 million stake in the Nationals, a $3.5 million home in California and has some $630 million in liquid assets.
Estimated net worth: $4.9 billion
Team: San Francisco Giants
This year, the wealthiest owner in Major League Baseball is Charles Bartlett Johnson, who became the team’s largest stakeholder after Bill Neukom retired as managing general partner and CEO. Johnson reportedly increased his stake in the team to 25 percent through purchases from other partial owners.
Johnson’s wealth was generated from his share of Franklin Resources (also known as Franklin Templeton Investments, ticker BEN) the investment firm founded by his father, Rupert Johnson Sr., in 1947. Charles is the firm’s chairman, while his brother Rupert Johnson Jr. is vice chairman; Charles’ son Gregory is president and CEO. Franklin Resources is valued at $4.1 billion, according to Wealth-X. Johnson's other major holdings include $730 million in liquid assets, an estimated $160 million stake in the Giants and a $6 million home in Indian Creek Village, Fla.