Wednesday December 6, 2023

Ballmer Nears Decade-Long Reign As Richest Sports Owner

  • New team owners are unable crack list after setting records
  • Changes likely to accelerate as leagues embrace new ownership models
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has easily held his status as the wealthiest owner in U.S. pro sports, topping Forbes’ rankings for a ninth consecutive year. 

But some of the newest team owners are finding cracking that list difficult — even as it now requires more wealth than ever to buy a team.

Ballmer’s estimated net worth of $101 billion — built heavily through Microsoft stock and his prior status as that company’s CEO — represents a 21.7% jump from a year ago, handily beating the second-ranked owner on the list, Denver Broncos owner Rob Walton, and his $67.4 billion. 

Still chasing their first title and historically existing in the long shadow of the neighboring Los Angeles Lakers, the Ballmer-led Clippers are set to begin a bold new era next year with the planned opening of the $2 billion Intuit Dome.

Earlier this year, Josh Harris led a $6.05 billion purchase of the Washington Commanders that set a new record for the largest-ever sale of a pro sports team, while Mat Ishbia’s $4 billion acquisition of the Phoenix Suns set a new league record. But neither Harris nor Ishbia could breach the top 20 of wealthiest sports team owners. Their respective net worths — $6.9 billion and $6.7 billion — fall below the 20th-ranked $7.2 billion of Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.

Also lining up behind Ballmer and Walton were the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Dan Gilbert (third, $21.3 billion), the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte FC’s David Tepper (fourth, $20.6 billion), and the New York Mets’ Steve Cohen (fifth, $19.8 billion). 

Though the Forbes rankings have been fairly static in recent years, more change is likely as franchise values continue to escalate, leading an increasing number of leagues to allow new ownership models.

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