Oct 20, 2022 - Sports

Steve Ballmer's billions tower over other sports team owners

Data: Forbes; Table: Axios Visuals
Data: Forbes; Table: Axios Visuals

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is America's richest sports owner for the eighth consecutive year, according to Forbes.

Why it matters: It's not just that Ballmer tops the list; it's by how much.

  • The former Microsoft CEO is worth more than four times as much as the next-richest NBA owner.
  • And 37% more than any other owner across the Big Four sports leagues.

Top five by league:

  • NBA: Ballmer, Clippers ($78 billion); Robert Pera, Grizzlies ($17.9 billion); Dan Gilbert, Cavaliers ($16.1 billion); Ann Walton Kroenke, Nuggets ($8.4 billion); Tilman Feritta, Rockets ($7.7 billion)
  • NFL: Rob Walton, Broncos ($57.1 billion); David Tepper, Panthers ($18.5 billion); Jerry Jones, Cowboys ($15.8 billion); Stan Kroenke, Rams ($12.9 billion); Stephen Ross, Dolphins ($11.6 billion)
  • MLB: Steve Cohen, Mets ($17.5 billion); Ted Lerner and family, Nationals ($6 billion); Todd Boehly, Dodgers ($5.3 billion); Mark Walter, Dodgers ($5.2 billion); Charles B. Johnson, Giants ($4.6 billion)
  • NHL: Phil Anschutz, Kings ($10.8 billion); Walton Kroenke, Avalanche ($8.4 billion); Terry Pegula, Sabres ($6.7 billion); David Bonderman, Kraken ($6.5B billion); Henry Samueli, Ducks ($6.1 billion)

The big picture: More than 10% of Forbes 400 members own a sports team. But even among those ultra-wealthy owners, Ballmer stands in a league of his own.

  • Warriors ownership is wary of their ballooning luxury tax bill, which could reach ~$500 million next year, which is understandable given it's one-third of majority owner Joe Lacob's net worth.
  • For Ballmer, that would represent just 0.6% of his net worth.
  • In fact, he's spending more ($2 billion) than Lacob's net worth ($1.5 billion) to privately fund a new arena. Quite an advantage.

The bottom line: Fans often complain when owners make cost-conscious team-building decisions, but even billionaires have limits. Well, most billionaires, at least.

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