The sports world has been heavily disrupted in recent years. The pandemic resulted in a seemingly endless amount of cancelled games, shortened seasons, and empty stadiums or arenas. Even television ratings have plummeted across many leagues. Fans are just struggling to care right now, we suppose. Despite the major disruptions, the value of major franchises themselves continue to rise. Major sporting institutions around the world saw their value increase by an average of almost 10%.
Most of the value remains driven by the ever-increasing television contracts — the NFL’s most recent deal is worth $10.3 billion. The MLB and NBA will make $1.84 and $2.6 billion per year next year. The TV rights for European soccer superpowers also continue to explode up, with international rights making up a huge chunk (for example, NBC’s $2.7 billion deal to show the English Premier League in the United States). So it’s no surprise that our list starts with two of the EPL’s biggest brands.
Current Value: $4.1 Billion
Owner: Fenway Sports Group (John W. Henry, Tom Werner)
Last Purchased: 2012, for $476 million
The pride of Liverpool (unless you’re an Everton supporter, I guess) has had an extremely successful run of late. They won the Champions League in 2019 and then followed that up by finally reclaiming the top spot in English football with a Premier League title in 2020 — their first in three decades. And that’s just on the sporting side of things.
When it comes to business, the team is owned by Fenway Sports Group. Headed by John W. Henry, they also own the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Penguins (plus Fenway Park and Anfield, Liverpool’s home grounds). With annual revenue exceeding $600 million, the Merseyside club is currently valued at $4.1 billion. That’s almost double the $2.2 billion valuation it had just two short years ago.
Current Value: $4.2 Billion
Owner: Glazer Family
Last Purchased: 2005, for $1.4 billion
For much of the 90s and early 00s, Manchester United was the most feared team in England. They won the Premier League in 1993, ’94, ’96, ’97, ’99, ’00, ’01, ’03, ’07, ’08, ’09, and 2011 and 2013. Plus Champions Leagues titles in 1999 and 2008 and a score of FA Cup and Charity Shield wins too. These days, United have come crashing back down to Earth, struggling to maintain a consistent spot in Europe’s highest competitions and rarely being EPL title contention.
While the on-field results have left fans grumpy, the off-field financial performances have the Glazer family smiling from ear-to-ear. The Glazers, who also own the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have owned Manchester United since 2005. Although there are regular reports that the club is swamped with debt, Forbes estimates its current value at $4.2 billion. It’s also one of the few professional sports teams that is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (MANU).
10. Bayern Munich
Current Value: $4.22 Billion
Owner: Club Members
Last Purchased: N/A
Another soccer club makes our list, but not an English one this time. Bayern Munich is easily the biggest, richest, and most successful club football team in the country of Germany. They rarely don’t win the German Bundesliga title, with a record 31 top flight championships in their history, along with five Champions League trophies and a score of domestic Cup wins too.
Unlike traditional North American sports franchises, Bayern aren’t owned by a single billionaire or ownership company. The majority of their ownership is by club members, following German soccer’s “50+1 ownership” rule. They still have a traditional supervisory board, though, with a president, chairman, and other positions. Audi, Adidas, and Allianz (three major German corporations) each have a minority share in the club.
Bayern Munich commands huge TV contracts, not to mention filling their 75,000 seat arena on a regular basis. In recent years, they’ve generated over $700 million in annual revenue. Their $4.22 billion valuation has more than doubled in the last ten years.
9. New York Giants
Current Value: $4.85 Billion
Owner: John Mara, Steven Tisch
Last Purchased: 1991, for $150 million
You’ve sat through enough soccer talk (for now, at least). The New York Giants are the first North American franchise to make this list of most valuable sports teams. Even if the team isn’t consistently good (Super Bowl wins in 2007 and 2011 aside), playing in the largest sports market on the planet of New York City will do wonders for a team’s value.
The team is owned by John Mara and Steve Tisch, and has been since 1991. Considering they only paid $150 million for the team three decades ago, their return on investment is soaring with a current franchise value of $4.85 billion. Not only do they get a huge piece of the NFL’s lucrative TV deal, they also have media deals with 4 New York and MSG Network, and the WFAN and WADO radio networks. Their value, like most other teams on this list, have skyrocketed in the last ten years. The Giants were “only” worth $1.5 billion back in 2021.
8. New England Patriots
Current Value: $5 Billion
Owner: Robert Kraft
Last Purchased: 1994, for $172 million
It’s pretty easy to make the list of most valuable sports teams. All you have to do is get lucky to draft Tom Brady in the seventh round, and then play in 11 of the next 17 Super Bowls (winning six of them). While every NFL team has seen their value increase tremendously over the last couple of decades due to TV rights packages alone, the winning culture of the Patriots helped propel their brands to even higher heights.
Owned by Robert Kraft, the Patriots (and Kraft) also own and operate their own stadium, Gillette Stadium. It’s a major source of additional revenue for the team. While the pandemic hampered every industry that includes live crowds, the Patriots regularly collected $600 million of annual revenue from their various sources (ticketing, merchandise, and media rights).
7. New York Yankees
Current Value: $5.25 Billion
Owner: Steinbrenner Family197
Last Purchased: 1973, for $8.8 million
The Yankees are the only baseball team to make the top ten of this list. However, it’s not really a huge surprise, considering the sheer brand power that the Yankees command. It’s not hard to figure out why, since the team has been mainstay in New York City for over 100 years and has a record 27 World Series titles.
The late George Steinbrenner was perhaps the first famous owner in all of sports history. After buying the team for $8.8 million in 1973, he ruled over the team with an iron fist. His controversial and heated battles with players, managers, and even the MLB head office itself, are all stuff of legends. When George passed in 2010, controlling ownership of the team transferred to his family via a trust. His sons Hank and Hal have been the public face of the team since (although Hank also passed away in 2020).
The family trust owns a company called Yankee Global Enterprises, which then in turn owns the team. The company also owns the YES network (which broadcasts Yankees games) and a minority stake in New York City FC, a professional soccer team in MLS.
6. Los Angeles Lakers
Current Value: $5.5 Billion
Owner: Jerry Buss Family Trusts, Philip Anschutz
Last Purchased: 1998, for $268 million
The Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the most iconic team in NBA history (although the Boston Celtics would probably argue that point). Since moving to LaLa Land from Minneapolis in 1960, they’ve gone through multiple championship eras. There was the Showtime Lakers of the 80s, and then the Kobe and Shaq era. Even LeBron James decided to take his talents to the West Coast for a title run in 2020.
Being synonymous with winning (and always having at least one or two of the NBA’s biggest stars on the roster) has been great for business. Of course, simply existing in Los Angeles –one of the richest and most expensive cities in the country — also does wonders for a team’s value. The Lakers are now worth roughly $5.5 billion, which is remarkable considering they were valued at just $1 billion back in 2013.
The late Jerry Buss bought the team for $67 million back in 1979. When Buss passed away in 2013, ownership reverted to the Buss Family Trust (which includes his six children). In 1998, Philip Anschutz bought a 27% minority stake in the team. That stake was rumored to be for sale in the summer of 2021, with Mark Walter and Todd Boehly (owners of the L.A. Dodgers) being the buyer. However, the deal hasn’t been made official yet.
5. Golden State Warriors
Current Value: $5.6 Billion
Owner: Joe Lacob, Peter Gruber
Last Purchased: 2010, for $450 million
It wasn’t long ago that everyone assumed it would be impossible to usurp the Lakers as the biggest, most valuable NBA team in California. Through a series of shrewd business moves, smart roster decisions, and a bit of dumb luck, the Golden State Warriors did just that.
Existing in the same area as ultra-rich Silicon Valley certainly helped (yes, even when they were technically based in Oakland). So did taking a bit of a gamble on Steph Curry in the 2009 draft. Curry was a promising player, but there were worries about a chronic ankle injury. He managed to stay healthy, though, and has become the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history. Along with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson (and yes, Kevin Durant), the Warriors won NBA titles in 2015, 2017, and 2028.
The team is owned by Joe Lacob (a venture capitalist originally from Massachusetts) and Peter Gruber (a veteran executive in the movie business). They bought the team in 2010 for $450 million and have seen their investment grow more than tenfold inside of a single decade. That’s some pretty good business by Lacob and Gruber.
4. Real Madrid
Current Value: $5.65 Billion
Owner: Club Members
Last Purchased: N/A
We have another couple of teams representing the beautiful game on our list. The first is Spanish giants Real Madrid. Much like Bayern Munich, this team doesn’t have a single owner. Instead, the club is owned by its own members, but still run by a board of directors that includes current president Florentino Perez (who was also formally the president from 2000 to 2006).
It was Perez who initiated the “Galacticos Era” for Madrid, which saw the team spend oodles of money on international stars like Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo, and David Beckham. That legacy would continue with players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, and Karim Benzema, who helped the club win “La Decima” — the first to be crowned champions of Europe ten times.
You cannot buy shares in Real Madrid, only a membership. That simply gives you voting rights. There are over 60,000 official members. The team generates massive revenue from ticket and merchandise sales, but even more from lucrative television deals for their La Liga and Champions Leagues fixtures.
Current Value: $5.7 Billion
Owner: Club Members
Last Purchased: N/A
Most of what we just typed for Real Madrid can be repeated for their archrivals, FC Barcelona. The “other” huge team in Spain, Barcelona is a footballing institution that has seen legends like Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho, and Lionel Messi all wear the shirt — and lift trophies — over the decades.
Like Madrid, they are owned by club members, who then elect a president and board of directors. The most recent numbers included roughly 144,000 official members. Multiple La Liga and Champions Leagues titles, along with the otherworldly exploits of Messi, saw Barcelona’s fame and fortune skyrocket in the 2000 and 2010s. The club valuation reached an impressive $5.7 billion.
However, the departure of Messi in 2021 and the revelation that the club was in serious debt — a result of both the pandemic and years of overspending on players — could see Barcelona’s overall value actually take a hit in 2022. Regardless, Barcelona will continue to be one of the leading — and most lucrative — soccer brands on the planet.
2. New York Knicks
Current Value: $5.8 Billion
Owner: Madison Square Garden Sports
Last Purchased: 1997, for $300 million
The Knicks haven’t even pretended to be in NBA championship contention since the 90s. Despite decades of borderline criminal mismanagement of their player roster, the value of the franchise continues to climb exponentially. That’s what happens when you play in Madison Square Garden in the center of Manhattan.
The Knicks are legally owned by Madison Square Garden Sports. It’s a holding company that also owns the NHL’s New York Rangers, plus a couple minor league teams. It also owns Madison Square Garden itself. The head of all these holding companies is James L. Dolan, who is the effective owner of the Knicks.
Dolan’s management style has been routinely criticized by the harsh New York press. Even though the team continues to mostly flounder, the Knicks are now worth almost $6 billion. That’s pretty impressive for a team that was only worth $300 million in 1997 — and has barely won a handful of playoff games since.
1. Dallas Cowboys
Current Value: $6.5 Billion
Owner: Jerry Jones
Last Purchased: 1989, for $150 million
Ahh yes, America’s Team. At least, that’s the moniker that owner Jerry Jones loves to use when describing his beloved Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys were a legitimate dynasty in the 90s, winning three Super Bowl titles in the span of four years. However, it’s been pretty crummy every since. They’ve only had three playoff wins (in ten tries) since the turn of the millennia, and haven’t even made it past the divisional playoff round in the same timespan. That never stops Cowboys fans from insisting that every season will “be their year” though.
You can rightfully criticize Jones for a number of good reasons, but you can’t argue with how successful he’s been, at least from a business standpoint. The Cowboys were worth $150 million when he bought them in 1989, and are worth $6.5 billion today. They bring in massive TV ratings and sell a ton of merchandise. Plus all the revenue they make from AT&T stadium, an opulent new home stadium that opened in 2009 and seats over 80,000 people.
In short, being in the NFL business is good business. Jones and the Cowboys aren’t the only example of this, but they are the biggest.