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Ranked: The Most Expensive Sports Team Sales in History

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The ten most expensive professional sports team sales shown as sized bubbles. The Washington Commanders sale is number one at $6.1 billion.

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.

This graphic from Sam Parker shows how the Commanders’ April 2023 deal measures up against the biggest sports team sales in history, using data from the Wall Street Journal and CBS Sports.

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.

RankTeamPriceYear of Sale
1🏈 Washington Commanders$6.1B2023
2⚽ Chelsea Football Club$5.3B2022
3🏈 Denver Broncos$4.7B2022
4🏀 Phoenix Suns$4.0B2023
5🏀 Milwaukee Bucks$3.5B2023
6⚾ New York Mets$2.4B2020
7🏀 Brooklyn Nets$2.4B2019
8🏈 Carolina Panthers$2.2B2018
9🏀 Houston Rockets$2.2B2017
10⚾ Los Angeles Dodgers$2.0B2012

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

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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.

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Personal Finance

Mapped: The Income a Family Needs to Live Comfortably in Every U.S. State

Families in expensive states require over $270,000 annually to live comfortably.

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A map showing the income that two working adults with two children need to live comfortably in each U.S. state.

The Income a Family Needs to Live Comfortably in Every U.S. State

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Families in the top five most expensive U.S. states require an annual income exceeding $270,000 to live comfortably.

This visualization illustrates the income necessary for two working adults with two children to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in each state.

“Comfortable” is defined as the income needed to cover a 50/30/20 budget, with 50% allocated to necessities like housing and utilities, 30% to discretionary spending, and 20% to savings or investments.

The calculations for family income needed in each state were done by SmartAsset, using the cost of necessities sourced from the MIT Living Wage Calculator, last updated on Feb. 14, 2024.

Massachusetts Tops the List

Massachusetts is the most expensive state to live comfortably in, requiring a total family income of about $301,184. Hawaii ($294,611) comes in second, followed by Connecticut ($279,885).

Housing is one main reason Massachusetts is an expensive state to live in, particularly in the Boston area. In addition, the state also has a high cost of living, including expenses such as healthcare and utilities.

RankStateIncome for 2 working adults raising 2 children
1Massachusetts$301,184
2Hawaii$294,611
3Connecticut$279,885
4New York$278,970
5California$276,723
6Colorado$264,992
7Washington$257,421
8Oregon$257,338
9New Jersey$251,181
10Rhode Island$249,267
11Vermont$248,352
12Minnesota$244,774
13New Hampshire$244,109
14Alaska$242,611
15Maryland$239,450
16Nevada$237,286
17Virginia$235,206
18Illinois$231,962
19Arizona$230,630
20Pennsylvania$230,464
21Maine$229,549
22Delaware$228,966
23Wisconsin$225,056
24Utah$218,483
25Michigan$214,490
26Nebraska$213,075
27Georgia$212,826
28Montana$211,411
28Iowa$211,411
30Idaho$211,245
31North Carolina$209,331
31Ohio$209,331
33Florida$209,082
34Indiana$206,003
35New Mexico$203,923
36Wyoming$203,424
37Missouri$202,259
38North Dakota$202,176
39Texas$201,344
40South Carolina$200,762
41Kansas$196,768
42Tennessee$195,770
43Oklahoma$194,106
44Alabama$193,606
45South Dakota$192,608
46Kentucky$190,112
47Louisiana$189,613
48West Virginia$189,363
49Arkansas$180,794
50Mississippi$177,798

Meanwhile, Mississippi is the least expensive state for a family to live comfortably, requiring $177,798 per year. Arkansas ($180,794) comes in second, followed by West Virginia ($189,363). In common, all these states share low prices of housing.

Learn More About Cost of Living From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out this graphic, which ranks the median down payment for a house by U.S. state.

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