What do you do if you love basketball but don’t have the skills to make it as a pro — or, in at least one case, were a basketball player whose career ended, as all careers do? Well, if you’re rich enough, you can buy a team. That’s what the majority owners of the 30 NBA teams have done. They all have some affinity for the game, and they all have a lot of sway in a league swimming in cash. Here is a ranking of every majority owner in the NBA, from oldest to youngest. In the case where more than one person is listed as the majority owner, we have gone with the oldest one.
The Pacers are kind of an anonymous franchise, and Simon is one of the more anonymous owners in the NBA. He’s also an elder statesman, as he and his brother Mel bought the Pacers way back in 1983. Mel died in 2009, and Simon has carried on by himself since. Also, he’s married to Miss Universe 1988, which is a fun fact.
Reinsdorf is an old-school owner. The former lawyer bought the Bulls back in 1985 when purchasing a sports team was a much cheaper proposition. While it takes a couple of billion to do that now, Reinsdorf, who already owned the White Sox at the time, snagged the Bulls for a mere $16 million. Then Michael Jordan happened, and his investment paid off tenfold.
Taylor has been a Minnesota state senator in the past, but after that he decided to buy the Timberwolves. He also tried to buy the Twins and Vikings to no avail. However, he was able to buy the Minnesota Star-Tribune and make it lean toward his own personal conservative politics.
How did the Warriors become a dynasty? They drafted well, hired a great coach, got a little lucky, and, oh yeah, were bought by a couple of billionaires. Lacob, who is 63, is the guy we hear from and see more, as he handles the day-to-day operations of the team. Guber is way more interesting, though. He’s a movie producer who produced films such as “Rain Man” and “Batman.” His production company puts on the Golden Globes, and yet this Hollywood lifer owns a team in the Bay Area.
Miller is the widow of former Jazz owner Larry Miller. Her husband died in 2009, and she took over 100 percent of his business holdings. That included a chain of movie theaters, a bunch of car dealerships, and, yes, the Jazz. She also moved the ownership of the Jazz franchise into a legacy trust to ensure that the team both stayed in her family and also in Utah.
So the owner currently celebrating having just won the NBA title is…a faceless corporation. The owner of the Toronto Raptors is Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. It also owns the Maple Leafs (of course), the Argonauts of the CFL and Toronto FC of the MLS. The picture only gets murkier from here. The primary owners of MLSE are Rogers Communications BCE, formerly Bell Canada. If we are going to put a face on this whole thing, Larry Tanenbaum is the chairman of MLSE, and he’s 74.
Benson only recently became a majority NBA (and NFL) owner. She is the widow of Tom “Boogie” Benson, who was the owner of the Pelicans until his death. Also, apparently Gayle met Tom at the funeral mass for Tom’s previous wife, Grace. Now she owns an NBA team. It’s an odd world sometimes.
The Spurs situation is kind of a murky at the moment, which is odd for the most consistent franchise of the last 20 years. Peter Holt bought the team in 1993, founding Spurs Sports & Entertainment to be the ownership group. However, Holt retired as the chairman in 2016, making his wife, Julianna, the new chairperson. Ah, but there’s more. As of early 2018, the Holts were planning to divorce. While we are not privy to all the Holt family dynamics, this situation seems up in the air.
Arison is the chairman of the Carnival Cruise Line, the biggest cruise company in the world. That’s helped him become a billionaire many times over. Arison owns the Heat, which he bought in 1995. The team has had a lot of success under him, especially after he was able to convince Pat Riley to join the organization.
Stan Kroenke has been quite generous with his sports franchises. While he still owns the Rams, the Colorado Rapids and Arsenal in the Premier League, the NFL wouldn’t allow him to own pro teams in other cities, which meant he was no longer able to own the Denver Nuggets or Colorado Avalanche. So now his wife owns those teams. Not that she doesn’t have money of her own. She is an heir to the Walmart fortune.
Dolan is the chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company, which owns not just the Knicks but also the Rangers. Some owners fade into the background. Dolan is not one of those. He’s loud, brash and controversial. He’s also pretty much universally loathed by Knicks fans, who dream of selling the team. Maybe he will so he can to focus on his blues rock band, JD & the Straight Shot. That’s not a joke.
Technically things haven’t completely been sorted after the death of Paul Allen, who was the longtime owner of the Portland Trail Blazers. For now his sister, Jody, is the executor of his estate and has been put in charge of his assets. So she is the “owner” of the Trail Blazers, but it remains to be seen what happens with them, not to mention the Seattle Seahawks.
There are rich NBA owners, and then there’s Ballmer. The guy was the CEO of Microsoft for over a decade, and he raked in a ton of cash in the process. When the Clippers forced Donald Sterling to sell, Ballmer swooped in and dropped a then unheard of $2 billion for the team. Ballmer is reportedly worth a staggering $51 billion, though, so he can afford it. No wonder he’s so excited when he’s courtside. You’d be excited too if you had more money than you could spend in 10 lifetimes.
Leonsis has had a great deal of success as the owner of the Washington Capitals. Drafting Alex Ovechkin will do that for you, and they did win the Cup a couple of years ago. The Wizards have had less success and are actually beginning a rebuild, despite the presence of John Wall’s albatross of a contract. Hey, at least the Capitals should still be good for a while.
Fertitta is one of the newer owners in the NBA, as he bought the Rockets in 2017. It cost him a pretty penny, as the sale was for $2.2 billion. That’s about what it costs to get an NBA franchise these days, though. Fertitta has been called the “world’s richest restaurateur.” Maybe he got into the food industry because his last name sort of looks like frittata.
Cuban was the new face of NBA ownership when he bought the Mavericks in 2000. He was young, for an owner, and had made his money from the internet. On top of that, Cuban was a vocal owner who liked to be the center of attention. He racked up fines for his antics at courtside. Now he’s 61 and far from the youngest owner. Circle of life.
Ranadive, an Indian billionaire, was lauded by Sacramento fans for keeping the Kings in town. Then things got a little weird. Ranadive has had some odd ideas related to running an NBA team. People probably talked too much about his speculation on leaving a player to cherry pick on offense, but anybody who watched the behind-the-scenes video when the team drafted Nik Stauskas will have the searing awkwardness of that burned in their brains forever.
Shield your eyes, Seattle basketball fans! Bennett bought the SuperSonics from Howard Schultz, claiming he would make an effort to keep the team in Seattle. Then next thing we knew, the team had been moved to Oklahoma City and renamed the Thunder. In what is surely a coincidence, Bennett is from Oklahoma City.
Technically the Orlando Magic are owned by RDV Sports Inc, which was founded by Rich DeVos when he bought the Magic, not to mention a few other sports teams. Yes, he named the company after himself. Rich is dead now, though, and his son Dan has become the chairman of the company. Born in Grand Rapids, DeVos also owns the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
Lasry is the age representative on the record, as he is 59 compared to Edens’ 57. The duo bought the Bucks from Herb Kohl for $550 million back in 2016. The franchise is now worth over a billion dollars. Edens is also a majority shareholder of Aston Villa, an English soccer club. Lasry, meanwhile, played in the All-Star Celebrity game last season.
Ressler owns the Atlanta Hawks, which is all well and good. That’s not what’s important here. He’s also married to Jami Gertz. Yes, THE actress Jami Gertz from “The Lost Boys” and that one episode of “Seinfeld!” She shows up at the NBA Draft Lottery to represent the Hawks for her husband. It’s always weird.
The Phoenix Suns have been a floundering franchise for a while, and many people lay that at the feet of Sarver. The real estate magnate bought the team in 2004, but the franchise has fluctuated wildly under his ownership. He has a reputation for being impetuous and wanting to win now all the time. They’ve had eight head coaches since Mike D’Antoni moved on in 2008, and D’Antoni wasn’t a hire under Sarver’s watch.
The Boston Basketball Partners, a group founded solely to buy the Celtics in 2002, is technically listed as the majority owner of the Celtics. The group consists of several members, including four members of the executive committee. However, traditionally, Wyc Grousbeck is listed as the lead owner for the Celtics. As such, we’re going with him as the representative, and he’s a hearty 58.
The Lakers have been a team of turmoil for a while, and it all goes back to the death of Jerry Buss, Jeanie’s father and the former owner of the Lakers. All six of his kids got a share of the franchise, but Jeanie is the team president and one of the NBA’s Board of Governors. Fortunately for Jeanie, and the rest of the Buss family, the Lakers name still has cache. That’s how they got LeBron and Anthony Davis to sign on.
If nothing else, Gilbert is the NBA owner with the most overt affinity for Comic Sans. We all recall when Gilbert feuded with LeBron James after the King took his talents to South Beach. However, the two were able to bury the hatchet, and LeBron returned to Cleveland to give the Cavs their first title. Then he left again. Hey, at least the Quicken Loans founder is still a billionaire several times over.
You may have heard of this guy. Jordan is the only former NBA player to be the majority owner of an NBA team. He is, of course, maybe the greatest of all time. Jordan was a legend on the court with the Bulls. Now he’s the owner of the Charlotte Hornets. The success as a player hasn’t translated to success as an owner just yet.
Gilbert is from Detroit, but he’s not the owner of the Pistons. That would be Gores, who has ties to the state of Michigan as well. His family moved to the Wolverine State from Israel when he was a child, and when longtime Pistons owner Bill Davidson died, Gores stepped up to purchase the team from his family. Gores and Gilbert have also tried to join forces to bring an MLS team to the Motor City, but to no avail so far.
Meet the newest owner in the NBA. Remember when Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire, bought the Nets and tried to make a big splash. It didn't quite work out for him, and a few years ago the 54-year-old oligarch sold 49 percent of the team to Tsai, one of the cofounders of Alibaba. Now, Prokhorov is selling the rest of his shares, and the Barclays center, to Tsai, making him the new man in charge of the Nets.
Harris made his money in investing and money management, making him one of the vanguards of a new era of sports owners. There are those who say guys like Harris don’t own sports teams because they love the sport and want the prestige of owning a franchise. They do it because it’s a money-making investment. Well, the Sixers have had success on the court in recent years after the Process, which Harris was party to as owner. Philly fans can’t be too unhappy.
Yes, you read that right. Pera is only 41. What’s even crazier is that he bought the Grizzlies way back in 2012. He’s been an NBA owner since his 30s. When he became a billionaire, he became one of the 10 youngest billionaires in the world. Pera, like Cuban before him, also likes to be involved and be hands on, though he’s not quite as visually prevalent. Maybe it's because he owns a team that plays in Memphis.
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