What Does It Take For An Owner To Sell A Sports Team?

By Ryan Bologna

It is a dream for many to own a sports team, and while the venture could be a vanity project for some, it is almost always a great investment. Even if the team does not make a profit the majority of teams increase in value every year, so an owner’s net worth will likely increase regardless. Our own Rhonda Bird explained why billionaires love buying teams and why it is such a good business move. If it was such a good financial move, why would anyone ever have the motive to sell? The reasons can vary, but there is a common trend here. The reason for a sale is often unrelated to the actual operation of the team. Let’s look at some recent sales to figure out what some of those reasons could be.

We discussed Rob Walton buying the Broncos, but why did the Bowlen family sell the team? When digging deeper, it is probably one of the most understandable reasons to sell a sports franchise. Pat Bowlen bought the team in 1984. He decided to step away from the team in July, 2014 for health reasons. The goal was to keep the team within the Bowlen family, but there were certain conditions that had to be met.

A trust headed by team CEO and President Joe Ellis took over after Bowlen stepped down. Pat Bowlen’s daughter, Beth made it aware that she wanted the team. The trust fired back and said she was unfit to run the team. A trial that pitted the Bowlen sisters against the trust was vacated. It was eventually decided that the team would either be given to younger sister Brittany or sold. The latter option was chosen in February, 2022. Brittany worked with the organization in hopes of eventually becoming the owner, but it just didn’t happen. Given how messy the situation was regarding keeping the team in the family, the sale of the Broncos might have been the most pragmatic decision.

There are tons of fans that hope and pray that their owners sell their teams. However, that wish rarely ever gets granted. As a suffering New York Knicks fan I know that no matter how loud the fanbase gets, James Dolan will not sell the team. Washington Commanders fans might be getting their wish granted regarding Daniel Snyder, as there is an ongoing Congressional hearing regarding his conduct as an owner.

The New York Mets fanbase was granted its wish when the Wilpon family sold the team to Steve Cohen. It was a dream scenario for the long-suffering fanbase. The complaint was that the Wilpon family did not spend on their team like a team in a New York market should. With Cohen, they now have the richest owner in the sport who is not afraid to spend. But what led to this transaction? It can all be traced back to the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.

The Wilpons suffered financial losses due to being victims of the scheme and is often cited as a reason the Mets were not big spenders during the last decade the family had control of the team. A feud between brothers Jeff and Bruce Wilpon is cited as a reason for the sale, but the financial burden from the Madoff Ponzi scheme combined with the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the sale. A group headlined by Alex Rodriguez attempted to buy the team, but they were unable to compete with Cohen’s wealth. Now Mets fans are

It is pretty easy to see why a sale took place with the Broncos. Trying to pass down a team within a family could create a lot of drama, and selling the team is a way to avoid it in a way. But with the Mets, it took a Ponzi scheme and the first pandemic in nearly 100 years to create enough of a financial burden that motivated the Wilpon family to sell. Unless there is infighting within an ownership group, it would take irresponsible mismanagement for an owner to be forced to sell a team.

Photo Credit: Frank Romeo

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