By Justin Birnbaum
For Roman Abramovich, the soon-to-be-former owner of Premier League club Chelsea FC, the start to 2022 has been turbulent. Following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian oligarchs worldwide have seen their assets frozen and commercial interests sanctioned, and Abramovich is no exception. Amid fears of retaliation, Abramovich revealed his intention to sell his beloved soccer club—which he purchased for $190 million in 2003 and recently valued at $3 billion (despite being burdened by massive debts)—and donate the revenues to charity. The United Kingdom government chose not to wait, taking the club from him and holding it in reserve until a sale.
This alone disqualifies Abramovich from the billionaire owner category. He is no longer one of the world’s wealthiest sports team owners for the first time in six years. However, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has had a much greater impact on his riches (and his health). Abramovich’s fortune, which Forbes estimated to be around $15 billion in January, has dwindled to $6.9 billion.
Abramovich is not the only one who is harmed. Inflation and a volatile market have wiped out more than half of the riches of team owners like Daniel Gilbert (worth an estimated $22 billion) and Masayoshi Son ($21.3 billion). Despite the headwinds, the combined fortune of the world’s 10 wealthiest sports team owners remained relatively stable at $353 billion this year, owing to a few large gainers. And the sports world’s future appears to be bright, as an inflow of new revenue streams from cryptocurrency firms, casino operators, and sports data suppliers hastened the recovery from pandemic-related losses.
As of March, when Forbes finalized the list of the World’s Billionaires for 2022, Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer restored his status as the world’s wealthiest sports team owner. The former CEO of Microsoft is 33 percent wealthier this year, valued at an estimated $91.4 billion, passing Reliance Industries CEO and Mumbai Indians owner Mukesh Ambani (worth an estimated $90.7 billion) for a brief period. Since 2016, the couple has been vying for the top rank in the sports world.
Stan Kroenke, a real estate and sports entrepreneur with an estimated $10.7 billion net worth, is just outside the top ten, despite owning the world’s most valuable private sports empire, which includes the Los Angeles Rams, Colorado Avalanche, and Denver Nuggets. Not that Kroenke has much to complain about: his NHL-best Avalanche is on the verge of winning the Stanley Cup, only months after his Rams won Super Bowl LVI over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The following are the ten wealthiest sports team owners:
Net worth figures are accurate as of March 11, 2022.
1. Steve Ballmer’s Los Angeles Clippers team
Microsoft is the source of wealth.
Net worth: $91.4 billion (+33 percent in one year)
The Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA, which the former Microsoft CEO purchased for a premium $2 billion eight years ago, are now valued at $3.3 billion by Forbes. Not bad for a return. However, it is Microsoft’s stock that has allowed Ballmer to run up the score—its shares have increased by more than 600 percent over the same period, adding more than $65 billion to his net worth. In the last year, his fortune has increased by $22.7 billion.
2. Mumbai Indians are owned by Mukesh Ambani.
Diversified Sources of Wealth
Net worth: $90.7 billion (an increase of 7% year over year)
The Indians, who are owned by Ambani’s Reliance Industries, are the toast of the Indian Premier League after winning a league-record five titles. Ambani’s ties to the sport may be increasing further as his organization apparently bids for the IPL’s media rights.
3. Stade Rennais FC is managed by François Pinault.
Luxury items are the source of wealth.
$40.4 billion in net worth (1-YEAR CHANGE: -4 percent )
Even though Pinault is still chasing Ligue 1 rivals Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain, who have won a combined 14 titles since he purchased Stade Rennais FC in 1998, the entire French soccer scene is poised to receive a big cash injection in the midst of Covid-19-related financial difficulties. CVC Capital Partners, a private equity group, is reportedly investing $1.6 billion in Ligue 1’s commercial arm.
4. Mateschitz, Dietrich
New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Racing, and RB Leipzig comprise the team.
Red Bull is the source of wealth.
$27.4 billion in net worth (an increase of 2% over the last year)
Mateschitz has achieved minor success with his collection of soccer clubs, which includes the MLS’s New York Red Bulls and the German Bundesliga’s RB Leipzig. However, his crowning achievement came in Formula 1. Last season, rising star Max Verstappen won Red Bull Racing’s first championship since 2013, ending Mercedes’ seven-year-old driver championship record.
5. Daniel Gilbert is a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Quicken Loans/Rocket Companies
$22 billion in net worth (1-YEAR CHANGE: -58 percent )
Gilbert has lost more than half of his fortune as a result of a steep decrease in the share price of Rocket Companies. The Cavaliers have had better fortune this season, and they have a chance to make the NBA playoffs for the first time since LeBron James left for Los Angeles in 2018.
6. Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Hawks of Fukuoka
Internet and telecommunications are the sources of wealth.
$21.3 billion in net worth (1-YEAR CHANGE: -53 percent )
Backed by early successes with Yahoo and Alibaba, among others, Son built SoftBank Group into a strong corporation over the previous 40 years. In 2005, the firm expanded its holdings by acquiring the Nippon Professional Baseball team, the Hawks. Since then, the club has been one of the league’s most successful, earning seven Japan Series titles.
7. Steve Cohen
New York Mets
Hedge funds are the source of wealth.
$17.4 billion in net worth (an increase of 9% over the last year)
The Mets have replaced the Yankees as New York’s top spenders under Cohen, baseball’s wealthiest individual owner. At $252 million, the Mets have the league’s second-highest payroll, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers. Cohen’s riches also influenced MLB’s most recent collective bargaining agreement, with a new luxury tax tier being called the “Cohen Tax” informally.
8. Carolina Panthers – David Tepper
Hedge funds are the source of wealth.
$16.7 billion in net worth (+15 percent year over year)
The Panthers have yet to win a game since Tepper purchased the team in 2018. However, increasing media deals have already netted him a substantial profit: the Panthers are now valued at an estimated $2.91 billion, more than $600 million more than Tepper paid for the team.
9. Memphis Grizzlies’ Robert Pera
Wireless networking equipment is a source of wealth.
$14.6 billion in net worth (1-YEAR CHANGE: -20 percent )
Although Pera’s Grizzlies are the NBA’s least valuable team, he has reaped the rewards of exploding franchise valuations. After purchasing the Grizzlies for $377 million in 2012, the team is currently believed to be worth $1.5 billion.
10. Philip Anschutz
Team: Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Galaxy
Investments are the source of wealth.
Net worth: $10.9 billion (an increase of 8% over the previous year)
Anschutz won the Stanley Cup twice in the 2010s, and following a three-year hiatus, it appears as though his Kings are ready to make another run. In July, he sold his 27 percent investment in the Los Angeles Lakers to Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and Mark Walters, although he retained ownership of Crypto.com Arena.