The Los Angeles Clippers were the major winners of the basketball summer, landing free agent Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George. That pairing of All-NBA players makes the Clippers the favorites to win the 2020 NBA title, with the season set to tip off at the end of the month.
It has also been a strong year off the court for Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. The net worth of the former Microsoft CEO is up $9.4 billion, to $51.4 billion, thanks to a 21% gain in Microsoft’s shares over the last 12 months.
Ballmer is the richest U.S. sports owner for the fifth straight year; he ranks ninth among all Americans. Most sports teams owners are rich thanks in part to soaring franchise values, driven by ever-escalating media deals. And then there is Steve Ballmer-rich. His wealth is more than four times that of the next richest owner in sports, and his 12-month net worth gain alone is more than the total net worth of all but three team owners.
Ballmer joined the ranks of team owners in 2014 when he paid $2 billion for the long-suffering Clippers franchise, which made the playoffs only four times in its first 33 seasons in Southern California. The Clippers have been transformed from the penny-pinching ways of former owner Donald Sterling to a first-rate franchise under Ballmer.
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Next up: a new privately financed arena in Inglewood, California, targeting 2024 as an opening. The expected $1 billion-plus cost is pocket change for Ballmer.
There are 42 members of the Forbes 400 who own controlling stakes in teams in major sports leagues. The cutoff this year is $2.1 billion, flat from 2018. The team owners are worth $247 billion collectively.
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David Tepper ($12 billion) is the second-richest American sports owner and the wealthiest of the 16 NFL owners on the Forbes 400 after the October 2018 death of Paul Allen. Tepper, a hedge fund titan, is also the league’s newest owner after buying the Carolina Panthers for an NFL-record $2.3 billion last year.
Phil Anschutz, who owns the Los Angeles Kings and the LA Galaxy, is the richest owner in hockey and soccer, which count nine and eight Forbes 400 members, respectively, among their ranks. Eight baseball owners made the cut, headed by Ted Lerner of the Washington Nationals ($5.1 billion). Ballmer leads the 14 NBA owners on the Forbes 400.
The biggest gainer in dollar terms is Ballmer, but another NBA owner had the biggest percentage jump. The net worth of the Detroit Pistons’ Tom Gores jumped 44%, to $5.6 billion, after his private equity firm closed its biggest fund yet; his Platinum Equity’s assets under management have soared 70% since last year, to $19.4 billion. Gores and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ($8.6 billion) both had their net worth increase $1.7 billion from a year ago, second-most behind Ballmer.
Miami Heat owner Micky Arison ($8.1 billion) had the biggest decline. His fortune dropped $1.3 billion after a 30% drop in the share price of Carnival Cruises, which he founded in 1972.
Four female sports team owners cracked the Forbes 400. Janice McNair ($4 billion) is the wealthiest after inheriting the Houston Texans when her husband, Robert, died in November.
Rank, Owner, Net worth, Source of wealth, Team(s)
1. Steve Ballmer: $51.7 billion, Microsoft (Los Angeles Clippers)
2. David Tepper: $12 billion, hedge funds (Carolina Panthers)
3. Philip Anschutz: $11.5 billion, investments (Los Angeles Kings, LA Galaxy)
4. Stanley Kroenke: $9.7 billion, sports, real estate (Los Angeles Rams, Arsenal, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids)