With news that the Buffalo Bills are just a nod of approval away from being sold, it appears that the market for professional sports teams has never been better, with television deals and merchandise at an all-time high, as well as increased visibility leading to a seller’s market. Every single sports team that’s been sold since the turn of the century has been sold at a significant gain, and that trend looks to continue well into the future.
Using information gathered from Forbes, ESPN, and other outlets cited when necessary, here are the seven sports teams that have changed hands for the largest sums of money since the start of this millennium.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars, $760 million
Sold in 2012 to one of the wealthiest men on the planet, the Jacksonville Jaguars, like the Bills, prove that the NFL can make money anywhere, regardless of the team’s quality. Before purchasing the Jags, owner Shahid Kahn had previously tried to purchase a majority ownership of the St. Louis Rams. He now owns the Jacksonville team in its entirety.
6.Chicago Cubs, $845 million
When Joe Ricketts and his family purchased the Cubs in 2009, they became just the fifth set of Cubs owners over the last 100 years, and just the seventh since 1902 — although they hold the distinction of paying the most money in history for an MLB franchise and stadium. The Cubs have yet to win a World Series since 1908.
5. Miami Dolphins, $1.1 billion
While the Miami Dolphins were officially sold in 2009, the groundwork started one year earlier, when Stephen Ross purchased half of the team, as well as the stadium and the land surrounding it, for $550 million. A year later, he purchased a remaining 45 percent from the old owner, Wayne Huizenga, and became, for all intents and purposes, the sole owner of the Florida franchise. The Dolphins opened their 2014 with a win over division rivals New England after spending the offseason rocked by the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito bullying scandal.
4. Buffalo Bills, $1.4 billion
While the sale has yet to be completed, the Bills and their fans have to be excited that they’ll be staying in western New York, as the Buffalo Sabres owner doesn’t seem to have any inclination to move the team — something that was included in the will of the original Bills owner, Ralph Wilson. The Pegula family are expected to get the nod of approval from the NFL owners during their next scheduled meeting, on October 8.
3. Manchester United, $1.47 billion
Malcom Glazer’s slow takeover of one of the most visible sports teams in the world was so bold and so noteworthy that it has its own Wikipedia entry. By the time Glazer passed away, earlier this year, the cumulative $1.4 billion that he spent establishing a controlling interest in the team had been undercut by the tremendous amounts of debt he took on in order to do so, and club supporters have often chafed at the relative cheapness that the team has displayed since being bought out in 2005.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers, $2 billion
When the Guggenheim Group, including — most famously — Magic Johnson, purchased the Dodgers in 2012, it was an end to the dubious ownership of Frank McCourt, which culminated in the MLB taking over the team because McCourt did not, apparently, have the money to continue to meet the payroll of a professional baseball franchise, as evidenced by the fact that he took the team into bankrupcy in 2011.
1. Los Angeles Clippers, $2 billion
The Donald Sterling saga finally concluded with a sale that was more than four times the franchise valuation — a perfect storm of a great team being unexpectedly available for purchase in one of the biggest markets in the country and a billionaire who’s been openly lusting for an NBA team, so much so that he was willing to handily outbid everyone else with cold, hard cash. Factor in the money burned by all parties involved during the contentious court proceedings, and the Clippers become the single most expensive sports team sold since 2000.