When it comes to NFL teams, certain things come to mind. You generally think of their uniform, helmet, and starting quarterback; sometimes, another star player or a notable head coach can also enter the conversation. An owner rarely takes top billing, unless that owner is Jerry Jones.
Jones may be the league’s most recognizable owner due to his constant presence around his Dallas Cowboys, but TV airtime doesn’t pay the bills. How does his checkbook compare to the other owners around the NFL?
How Jerry Jones made his money
Unlike most other NFL owners, Jerry Jones actually played football at a high level. He enrolled at the University of Arkansas and joined the team as an offensive lineman; he served as a co-captain on the 1964 National Championship winning squad. Despite that success, he wouldn’t make his money as a professional player.
After college, Jones borrowed $1 million from the Teamsters union, using the capital to open up several Shakey’s Pizza restaurants; that investment quickly went belly-up. Jones landed on his feet, however. His father was the president and chairman of Modern Security Life Insurance; Jerry would be named as the company’s executive vice president after he graduated from college.
At age 25, Jones decided to change lanes and try his luck looking for black gold. He founded Jones Oil and Land Lease and started searching for oil in a remote corner of Oklahoma. His investment paid off, and, before long, the money started rolling in.
Buying the Dallas Cowboys
As a former player, Jones could never escape his beloved football. He had previously looked into purchasing the San Diego Chargers, who played in the AFL at the time but wasn’t able to come up with the cash.
In 1989, however, he finally got his chance to get in on the NFL action. The Dallas Cowboys were struggling, and Jones saw an opportunity to turn a profit. He took over the team and immediately made a splash, axing legendary head coach Tom Landry.
“This is my life. I intend to invest a lot of time in this,” Jones said at the time. My entire office and my entire business will be at [Valley Ranch]. I intend to know and have an understanding of the complete situation. An understanding of the player situation, the jocks, and socks, the TV [contract].”
“There’s no way in the world that with my enthusiasm and love for what I’m getting ready to do, and the kind of price I’m paying, that I can look in the mirror if I don’t plan to be a part of everything. I want to understand that everyone associated with it is giving it everything that they can do.”
Finding success in Dallas
While the Cowboys struggled in Jones’ first season, things quickly turned around. The franchise dominated the 1990s, winning three Super Bowls and reclaiming their spot as “America’s team.”
Jones also helped the entire NFL by playing a crucial role in securing a new TV contract with Fox. That decision, combined with the Cowboys on-field success, meant his investment paid off in spades.
While things haven’t always been perfect in “Jerry World,” the cash keeps rolling in. The Cowboys franchise itself is now valued at over $5 billion, and Jones’ personal worth hovers just under $9 billion.
Who is the NFL’s richest owner?
Despite those eye-popping financials, Jerry Jones is only the third richest NFL owner.
Stan Kronke is the league’s second wealthiest man, valued at roughly $9.7 billion. While he had made his own fortune in real estate, Kronke also married into the Walmart fortune. He currently heads Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which owns the Los Angeles Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and Arsenal FC.
Both Jones and Kronke, however, trail David Tepper, owner of the Carolina Panthers. While that franchise sits towards the bottom of the value charts, Tepper made his money as the owner and president of a global hedge fund. He’s currently valued at a massive $12 billion.