If you’re trying to reason just how pandemic-resistant the world’s leading sports franchises are, look no further than Fred Wilpon’s New York Mets. The Amazin’s, the No. 2 team in Major League Baseball’s most valuable market, were put in play by Wilpon in February after nearly two decades of ownership, putting them on track to be the first big-market Major League Baseball franchise to be sold in eight years.

They are hardly a crown jewel. Wilpon was unwilling to keep pace with the league’s rising payrolls, leaving the Mets without a World Series win since 1986 and bleeding cash long before the coronavirus removed more than half the season and all of the franchise’s stadium revenues.

That hasn’t stopped an all-star list of buyers from kicking the tires, including hedge-fund titan Steve Cohen and private-equity guru Josh Harris, one of whom will likely end up paying more than $2 billion for the franchise, one of 57 teams worth at least that amount. 10 years ago, there was only one that came even close: U.K. soccer club Manchester United, which was the most exceptional team on earth in 2010 at $1.83 billion.

That honor now belongs to the Dallas Cowboys, who top the Forbes ranking of the 50 Most Valuable Sports Teams for the fifth straight year, at $5.5 billion, edging out the $5 billion New York Yankees. For Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New York’s Steinbrenner family, it may as well be paper profit. Only one team in the top 35—MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, in 2012—has changed hands in the past decade, which explains how the Mets, No. 41 at $2.4 billion, became one of the hottest tickets in sports.

The pain even became worse further down the food chain. Stakes held by limited partners of major teams already come with a discount of 20% or more to controlling stakes and could face pressure if some partners start looking to offload their interests to raise cash for other businesses that may be ailing due to the spread of Covid-19. A number of minor league baseball teams are on the verge of bankruptcy while Vince McMahon’s XFL startup folded after suspending its season in March.

The pandemic shutdown has been bad for every owner, but the ones holding on to the top brands are unlikely to be moved. The Cowboys delivered Jones operating profits of $420 million in 2018. While that is a record for a sports franchise, the league average is $102 million, which is why its average ownership tenure is four decades, with only one team changing hands in the past five years, a backlog of demand that is far from being met.

“It could take 30 years,” says Galatioto, who knows at least half a dozen multi-billionaires looking to buy an NFL franchise. “That lack factor holds values up.”

1. Dallas Cowboys (NFL)

Value: $5.5 billion
Owner: Jerry Jones
Year Purchased: 1989
Price Paid: $150 million

2. New York Yankees (MLB)

Value: $5 billion
Owner: Steinbrenner family
Year Purchased: 1973
Price Paid: $8.8 million

3. New York Knicks (NBA)

Value: $4.6 billion
Owner: Madison Square Garden Company
Year Purchased: 1997
Price Paid: $300 million

4. Los Angeles Lakers (NBA)

Value: $4.4 billion
Owner: Jerry Buss Family Trusts, Philip Anschutz
Year Purchased: 1979, 1998
Price Paid: $20 million, $268 million

5. Golden State Warriors (NBA)

Value: $4.3 billion
Owner: Joe Lacob, Peter Guber
Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: $450 million

6. Real Madrid (soccer)

Value: $4.24 billion
Owner: club members
Year Purchased: not applicable

7. New England Patriots (NFL)

Value: $4.1 billion
Owner: Robert Kraft
Year Purchased: 1994
Price Paid: $172 million

8. Barcelona (soccer)

Value: $4.02 billion
Owner: club members
Year Purchased: not applicable

9. New York Giants (NFL)

Value: $3.9 billion
Owner: John Mara, Steven Tisch
Year Purchased: 1925, 1991
Price Paid: $500, $150 million

10. Manchester United (soccer)

Value: $3.81 billion
Owner: Glazer family
Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: $1.4 billion

11. Los Angeles Rams (NFL)

Value: $3.8 billion
Owner: E. Stanley Kroenke
Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: $750 million

12. San Francisco 49ers (NFL)

Value: $3.5 billion
Owner: Denise DeBartolo & John York
Year Purchased: 1977
Price Paid: $13 million

13. Chicago Bears (NFL)

Value: $3.45 billion
Owner: McCaskey family
Year Purchased: 1920
Price Paid: $100

14. Boston Red Sox (MLB)

Value: $3.3 billion
Owner: John Henry, Thomas Werner
Year Purchased: 2002
Price Paid: $380 million

15.  Chicago Bulls (NBA)

Value: $3.2 billion
Owner: Jerry Reinsdorf
Year Purchased: 1985
Price Paid: $16.2 million

16.  New York Jets (NFL)
Value: $3.2 billion
Owner: Johnson family
Year Purchased: 2000
Price Paid: $635 million

17.  Boston Celtics (NBA)
Value: $3.1 billion
Owner: Wycliffe & Irving Grousbeck, Robert Epstein, Stephen Pagliuca
Year Purchased: 2002
Price Paid: $360 million

18. Philadelphia Eagles (NFL)

Value: $3.05 billion
Owner: Jeffrey Lurie
Year Purchased: 1994
Price Paid: $185 million

19. Denver Broncos (NFL)

Value: $3 billion
Owner: Pat Bowlen Trust
Year Purchased: 1984
Price Paid: $78 million

20. Oakland Raiders (NFL)
Value: $2.9 billion
Owner: Mark Davis
Year Purchased: 1966
Price Paid: $180,000


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