In a financial ranking that is arguably the ultimate badge of honor for billionaire sports team owners, the Dallas Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones are sitting atop the world again.
For an unprecedented fifth straight year, Forbes named the Cowboys the most valuable franchise in the world, with an estimated value now perched at a remarkable $5.5 billion. That’s a 10 percent hike in value from 2019.
Dallas has taken the top spot five of the 11 years that Forbes has been compiling the list, with the valuation representing a 3,600 percent return on the $150 million Jones paid to buy Dallas in 1989.
The New York Yankees held the No. 2 overall spot on the list for the second straight year, registering a robust $5 billion valuation. The NFL landed three franchises inside the top 10, including the New England Patriots at seventh ($4.1 billion) and New York Giants at ninth ($3.9 billion).
The NBA took a huge step forward on the list, with the New York Knicks ($4.6 billion), Los Angeles Lakers ($4.4 billion) and Golden State Warriors ($4.3 billion) climbing to third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Interestingly, the Los Angeles Rams settled in at 11th overall with a $3.8 billion valuation. It’s believed the Rams could vault all the way to the top of Forbes’ list and unseat the Cowboys in 2021, after the team’s $5 billion (and climbing) Inglewood stadium is added to the ledger. That stadium is expected to be the crown jewel of NFL facilities, paving the way for club owner Stan Kroenke to become one of the most powerful sports owners on the planet.
With no titles in decades, why are Cowboys so valuable?
For now, Jones continues his stranglehold on the top of Forbes’ list in spite of his last Super Bowl win coming more than 25 years ago. His ballooning bottom line has always been one of his crowning achievements, thanks in large part to unique advertising deals, sweeping infrastructure upgrades with AT&T Stadium and his creation of The Star industrial park complex in Frisco, Texas, where Jones took a massive tract of land and turned it into the team’s headquarters, practice facility, alongside sprawling retail and corporate workspaces that he rents for a premium.
Of course, the NFL is also boosted annually by its whopping television rights deals, that are expected to grow even larger next year, when the league negotiates its next rights extension with networks. Those talks will be interesting with the COVID-19 stadium precautions expected to limit fan attendance and push TV ratings to new heights this season. That’s if the league can keep the entire schedule slate intact during the pandemic which has become the No. 1 NFL storyline of 2020.
That new television deal and the most recent collective bargaining agreement are expected to continue pushing NFL profits to new heights. According to Forbes, the average NFL franchise earned more than $102 million in profit last year, “before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.”
Pandemic expected to hit NFL, Cowboys hard in pocket
There is also expected to be some drawback of those profits following 2020, with the NFL projecting a still-unknown revenue recession due to the pandemic slashing fan attendance significantly this year. Forbes projected in May that the NFL could lose as much as $5.5 billion in stadium revenues this season due to the pandemic. It also pinned $621 million of the Cowboys’ $950 million in total revenue from last year as having been generated by its stadium. That means Dallas stands to lose a significant amount of capital if some of the worst-case COVID-19 scenarios come to fruition.
While the league is attacking every possible angle to tap other revenue sources (like lower bowl advertising), it remains to be seen how deep the impact will be. Almost certainly it will lead to a shakeup in the Forbes valuations in 2021, particularly if the dominant soccer clubs on the list (like Real Madrid and Manchester United) can manage to take advantage of Europe’s successful management of the pandemic.
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