Ranking the Biggest Sports Team Sales in History
After a record-setting year in 2022, professional sports team sales are on an uptick yet again.
The tentative $6.05 billion Washington Commanders sale, already approved by other NFL owners, will be the highest amount paid for a sports team once completed.
Washington Commanders Sale vs. Other Franchise Fortunes
Valuations have become significantly larger in the last couple of years, with the largest sales all occurring after 2010. Here are the 10 most highly-priced sales for a professional sports team franchise globally.
|Rank||Team||Price||Year of Sale|
|1||🏈 Washington Commanders||$6.1B||2023|
|2||⚽ Chelsea Football Club||$5.3B||2022|
|3||🏈 Denver Broncos||$4.7B||2022|
|4||🏀 Phoenix Suns||$4.0B||2023|
|5||🏀 Milwaukee Bucks||$3.5B||2023|
|6||⚾ New York Mets||$2.4B||2020|
|7||🏀 Brooklyn Nets||$2.4B||2019|
|8||🏈 Carolina Panthers||$2.2B||2018|
|9||🏀 Houston Rockets||$2.2B||2017|
|10||⚾ Los Angeles Dodgers||$2.0B||2012|
The Washington Commanders sale takes the top spot at $6.1 billion, even though it could still be de-throned. It’s been reported that a $7 billion dollar bid for the team is still in play as well.
Dan Snyder, the current owner of the team, is one of the world’s richest people in sports. He purchased the team for $800 million in 1999 and, if the $6.1 billion sale completes, will have made a cumulative return of over 650%.
Chelsea Football Club is the only non-U.S. sale on the list. The sports team was previously owned by Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch who was subject to sanctions after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and was forced to sell the team.
Hedge fund billionaire Todd Boehly, who was part of the consortium that purchased Chelsea, is also part owner of number 10 on the list: the LA Dodgers. Boehly is said to have helped with one of the “most dramatic turnarounds in North American sports” through his purchase of the Dodgers in 2012 for $2.0 billion, with the team wining the MLB World Series in 2020.
Will any sale top the Washington Commanders number? NFL teams specifically are some of the world’s most valuable teams, so the sale of a team such as the Dallas Cowboys or Los Angeles Rams could be worth more.
Other competition could come from soccer teams, including Chelsea rivals Manchester United or Liverpool. Manchester United’s owners put the club up for sale in 2022, hoping for a valuation of £5 billion to £6 billion ($6.2 billion to $7.5 billion).
Why Are Sports Team Sale Prices So High?
Sports teams haven’t always collected such sky-high prices like the Washington Commanders sale. In fact, sports teams used to be the investment of choice for eccentric entrepreneurs and were considered money-losing propositions.
So what’s changed? There are a number of factors driving high valuations and passionate interest from billionaires:
- Media deals: Digitization means sports now have a global audience, and broadcast rights have become a major driver of leagues’ revenue growth. For example, the NFL has $115 billion in long-term media rights deals with major TV networks, Amazon, and Google’s YouTube TV.
- Industry monopoly: There were once a handful of professional baseball leagues, but Major League Baseball earned an exemption from antitrust (pro-competition) laws in 1922. Other sports leagues have conglomerated to become the biggest and best representatives of their sport, making it nearly impossible for new entrants to compete.
- League benefits: Contracts negotiated at a league level are equally split between every league’s sports team. The Packers, the only NFL team with public financial statements, earned 60% of their income from national sources in 2022. Most leagues also have salary caps which limit player costs.
- Favorable Taxes: In 2004, the U.S. federal government introduced a rule allowing sports team owners to write off most of their purchase price against team profits over 15 years.
Beyond these factors, perhaps the biggest driver of sports team value is the prestige associated with owning one.
“Sports teams are a bit of a vanity asset, like owning a Picasso, and the highest bidder is going to be a very rich person who wants to own the team so they (can) call themselves an owner of a sports team.” — Stephen Dodson, Portfolio Manager of Bretton Fund
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Visualizing U.S. GDP by Industry in 2023
Services-producing industries account for the majority of U.S. GDP in 2023, followed by other private industries and the government.
Visualizing U.S. GDP by Industry
The U.S. economy is like a giant machine driven by many different industries, each one akin to an essential cog that moves the whole.
Understanding the breakdown of national gross domestic product (GDP) by industry shows where commercial activity is bustling and how diverse the economy truly is.
The above infographic uses data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to visualize a breakdown of U.S. GDP by industry in 2023. To show this, we use value added by industry, which reflects the difference between gross output and the cost of intermediate inputs.
The Top 10 U.S. Industries by GDP
As of Q1 2023, the annualized GDP of the U.S. sits at $26.5 trillion.
Of this, 88% or $23.5 trillion comes from private industries. The remaining $3 trillion is government spending at the federal, state, and local levels.
Here’s a look at the largest private industries by economic contribution in the United States:
|Industry||Annualized Nominal GDP |
(as of Q1 2023)
|% of U.S. GDP|
|Professional and business services||$3.5T||13%|
|Real estate, rental, and leasing||$3.3T||12%|
|Educational services, health care, and social assistance||$2.3T||9%|
|Finance and insurance||$2.0T||8%|
|Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services||$1.2T||4%|
|Other private industries||$2.6T||10%|
Like most other developed nations, the U.S. economy is largely based on services.
Service-based industries, including professional and business services, real estate, finance, and health care, make up the bulk (70%) of U.S. GDP. In comparison, goods-producing industries like agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and construction play a smaller role.
Professional and business services is the largest industry with $3.5 trillion in value added. It comprises establishments providing legal, consulting, design, administration, and other services. This is followed by real estate at $3.3 trillion, which has consistently been an integral part of the economy.
Due to outsourcing and other factors, the manufacturing industry’s share of GDP has been declining for decades, but it still remains a significant part of the economy. Manufacturing of durable goods (metals, machines, computers) accounts for $1.6 trillion in value added, alongside nondurable goods (food, petroleum, chemicals) at $1.3 trillion.
The Government’s Contribution to GDP
Just like private industries, the government’s value added to GDP consists of compensation of employees, taxes collected (less subsidies), and gross operating surplus.
|Government||Annualized Nominal GDP |
(as of Q1 2023)
|% of U.S. GDP|
|State and Local||$2.1T||8%|
Figures may not add up to the total due to rounding.
State and local government spending, largely focused on the education and public welfare sectors, accounts for the bulk of value added. The Federal contribution to GDP amounts to roughly $948 billion, with 52% of it attributed to national defense.
The Fastest Growing Industries (2022–2032P)
In the next 10 years, services-producing industries are projected to see the fastest growth in output.
The table below shows the five fastest-growing industries in the U.S. from 2022–2032 in terms of total output, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
|Industry||Sector||Compound Annual Rate of Output Growth (2022–2032P)|
|Computing infrastructure providers, data processing, and related services||Information||3.9%|
|Wireless telecommunications carriers (except satellite)||Information||3.6%|
|Home health care services||Health care and social assistance||3.6%|
|Oil and gas extraction||Mining||3.5%|
Three of the fastest-growing industries are in the information sector, underscoring the growing role of technology and digital infrastructure. Meanwhile, the projected growth of the oil and gas extraction industry highlights the enduring demand for traditional energy sources, despite the energy transition.
Overall, the development of these industries suggests that the U.S. will continue its shift toward a services-oriented economy. But today, it’s also worth noticing how services- and goods-producing industries are increasingly tied together. For example, it’s now common for tech companies to produce devices, and for manufacturers to use software in their operations.
Therefore, the oncoming tide of growth in service-based industries could potentially lift other interconnected sectors of the diverse U.S. economy.
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