The 20 richest controlling owners of teams in major sports leagues around the world have a combined net worth of $426 billion, up 60% during what has been a record year for billionaire wealth.
It has been an ascendant twelve months for India’s richest person, Mukesh Ambani. His cricket team, the Mumbai Indians, were Indian Premier League champions for the second year in a row. And off the field, shares of his multinational conglomerate, Reliance Industries, rose more than 85% over the last twelve months—helping more than double Ambani’s net worth to $84.5 billion.
That’s enough to make Ambani the world’s richest sports team owner. He surpasses last year’s number one, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, for the top spot.
Ballmer, who owns the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, has also seen his fortune grow, though not enough to keep up with Ambani. His net worth is now $68.7 billion, according to Forbes, up from $52.7 billion a year ago.
The bar for entry onto the list of the 20 richest sports team owners has gotten dramatically higher since early 2020, amid what has been a record year for billionaire wealth. These 20 billionaire controlling owners of teams in major sports leagues now have a combined net worth of $426 billion, up from $266 billion last year, according to Forbes. That’s a 60% increase over the past 12 months—despite many sports arenas and stadiums remaining mostly empty amid the pandemic.
Of course Covid-19 hasn’t curbed fans’ appetite or stopped major deals from happening. Hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen, for example, finally won approval from Major League Baseball for his roughly $2.4 billion purchase of the New York Mets in October 2020. That deal has earned Cohen a spot on the list of the world’s richest sports team owners for the first time.
Another notable newcomer: billionaire Home Depot cofounder Arthur Blank. After stepping down as co-chairman of the retail giant in 2001, he purchased the Atlanta Falcons football team the following year for $545 million (now worth nearly $1.9 billion net of debt today, according to Forbes’ estimates). Blank also brought professional soccer to the city with his Major League Soccer team Atlanta United FC, which played its inaugural season in 2017.
The biggest gainer on the list this year—in both dollar and percentage terms—is, by far, Dan Gilbert, the billionaire mortgage tycoon and owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s worth an estimated $51.9 billion, a nearly 700% increase from last year thanks to the company he cofounded in 1985, Quicken Loans. Now the largest mortgage lender in the United States, Quicken went public as Rocket Companies at a massive $36 billion valuation in August 2020, catapulting Gilbert up the ranks of the world’s richest billionaires.