Jerry Jones is one of the most famous owners in sports — or infamous, depending on how his Cowboys are doing. His long, eccentric history as a hands-on businessman is packed with anecdotes. So it wasn’t a surprise when he revealed that his first attempt to buy an NFL team was a collaboration controversial figure and former union boss Jimmy Hoffa.
There’s something especially amusing about the idea of larger-than-life figures like Hoffa and Jones working out backroom deals in the ’60s. While several films and biographies detail Hoffa, his dealings with Jones could make for a great drama — or comedy? For those unfamiliar with Hoffa, let’s explore why that’s such a compelling concept.
Who was Jimmy Hoffa?
As the Netflix film The Irishman takes pains to point out, everybody used to know about Hoffa. Now, the one-time president of the powerful Teamsters union is known mostly for his mysterious disappearance. But his disturbing end happened as a result of the immense power he wielded in the ’60s.
Hoffa started as a grocery store worker who helped organize his coworkers. He joined the Teamsters not as a driver but specifically as an organizer. Hoffa quickly climbed the ranks of the massive national union. Once elected president, he consolidated into a top-down structure that gave him immense power. Crucially, he held the purse strings of the Teamsters’ massive pension fund and sought to enrich his members — and himself — by pursuing investment opportunities for that money.
The trucking industry was already crawling with organized crime influence before Hoffa joined the union. He simply worked with these elements, often implying to political enemies that they had his back. Hoffa took on a 13-year prison sentence, thanks to illegal activities related to the pension fund, but he was released after a presidential pardon in 1971.
He attempted to assert more complete control over the union, including an attempt to take mafia elements out of the equation. His former criminal partners likely didn’t take that well, which likely explains Hoffa’s sudden disappearance in 1975. He was never seen again.
Jerry Jones’ attempted collaboration with Teamsters money
Jones is one of the few owners in sports who had decent success in the same sport. He didn’t turn his college football run into NFL draft prospects, so he switched his focus to business. One of his early partners was none other than Hoffa and the Teamsters.
The two worked together on a chain of pizza parlors, which didn’t work out. Jones’ next idea was to realize a dream: He wanted to buy the San Diego Chargers. Hoffa was interested in getting into sports. The team was available at a reasonable price.
“[The Teamsters] were willing to loan me the money to pursue the Chargers and buy them,” Jones told the Star-Telegram in 2017. “They are ones who sent in a million dollar letter of credit, which was a lot of money back then. I mean a lot of money.” But Jones’ father cautioned his son against further dealings with the increasingly infamous Hoffa, so the deal never went through.
How Jones bought America’s Team
Jones went a different way. He earned his master’s degree in business in 1970, while his former partner Hoffa sat in prison. Jones invested in oil and gas prospecting, which saw rapid growth. That put him in the position to become an NFL owner in 1989 when he bought the Cowboys for $140 million.
Today, America’s Team is worth an estimated $4.8 billion, according to Cheat Sheet. Jones’ stewardship of the team is very hands-on, sometimes to a fault. But that increase in value is an objective fact in his favor. It might not have been possible had he stayed in business with the notoriously shady Hoffa.