There was a time not too long ago when sports teams were considered a billionaire's ultimate luxury purchase. Sports was the one area where the super wealthy could still be super fans. But in recent years, the business side of owning a sports franchise have started to overshadow that fun. Money has been flowing into sports, notably from corporate sponsorships, brand new stadiums, and massive television contracts -- and billionaires are taking notice.
With the release of the 2013 Forbes Billionaires list, now is the perfect time to look at which billionaires are cashing in on sports. See the full list in the gallery below:
Some billionaires are still in it for the fun. Take Terry Pegula, the billionaire who sold his fracking business to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 billion in 2010. The hockey fanatic bought his hometown NHL team, the Buffalo Sabres, a year later for $189 million. That's a passionate fan using his newfound wealth to buy the team he loves. Lots of sports fans with emptier bank accounts can understand the appeal.
But other billionaires aren't in it for just one team -- they're building sports empires. Stan Kroenke owns football's St. Louis Rams, basketball's Denver Nuggets, hockey's Colorado Avalanche, soccer's Arsenal, and a regional television sports network to boot. Similarly, John Henry owns baseball's Boston Red Sox, soccer's Liverpool, and NASCAR's Roush Fenway Racing. Or look at Malcolm Glazer, the owner of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers since 1995. He added Manchester United, the world's most famous soccer squad, to his trophy case in 2003 and took it public last year. In early 2013, Manchester United's stock rose high enough to make it the first sports team worth more than $3 billion.
For the list above, we used only major sports franchises, eliminating smaller teams in smaller markets that aren't at least in the $100 million valuation range and therefore wouldn't be a significant part of any billionaire's portfolio. Otherwise, many other people would have to be included, including the richest man in the world. Carlos Slim and his company America Movil recently bought stakes in one Spanish and two Mexican soccer teams, but none of the three franchises rank nearly high enough on any valuation list.
Given that limitation, the most-represented sport was American football, with 19 billionaire owners. Basketball came in second with 15. Baseball has 6 and hockey 5. Soccer registered 8, cricket 1, and auto racing 2.