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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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NFL Succession Highlights Team Transfers From Aging Parents

  • The NFL requires families that control teams to collectively own 30% of the club.
  • Only a principal owner can vote in NFL meetings, unless they designate someone else.
Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

NFL owners are expected to approve the principal owner designation switch to the Texans’ Cal McNair (above, center) from his mother, Janice McNair (above, left), on Tuesday, a source says. In the coming months, the owners’ finance committee is expected to approve a similar switch from 49ers owner Denise DeBartolo to her son Jed York, the source says. Only a principal owner can vote in NFL meetings, unless they designate someone else.

The two situations are different, but they are connected by a broader issue in the NFL: the transfer of teams from aging parents to their heirs.

“We’re going to have succession issues,” says Marc Ganis, a sports consultant with deep ties to the NFL. “It’s just a matter of the age of the people who own teams. So we’re going to have a number of the next generation getting involved, becoming controlling owners. In some cases, it will be well before there’s any reason for it. And, in other cases, it’ll be when events warrant. We’re going to see a number, a half dozen or more over the course of the next decade or two, of these.”

In the case of the Texans, Cal McNair battled his brother Cary in court over his effort to become guardian of their mother. Janice and Cal opposed the effort, which could have given Cary a pathway to control the team. As for the 49ers, DeBartolo has owned it since her brother, Eddie, transferred the team in 2000 to her after his involvement in a Louisiana gambling scandal. It’s not clear why the mother-to-son transfer is happening now, though Jed York has long been the face of the franchise along with his father, Dr. John York.

More to Come

Other teams where an aging parent controls the team include the Raiders, Bears, Cowboys, and Patriots.

The NFL requires families that control teams to collectively own 30% of the club, with the controlling owner share smaller, with the minimum level determined by the number of years of ownership. No shares are believed to have changed hands between the McNairs, and it’s not clear whether Jed York needs to acquire more team stock.

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