The Cowboys became the first NFL team to lead Forbes’ valuation list of the top-50 sports teams in terms of value, taking over the top spot from soccer teams that have ruled that domain in the past. The Cowboys also became the first sports franchise to hit the $4 billion mark in valuation, up 25 percent from last year’s estimates from Forbes.
NFL teams continue to climb the list and become more valuable while the league continues to rake in 10-figure television deals for broadcast rights to their games that aren’t always exclusive (NFL Network and Twitter are making impressions on the broadcast rights). The TV deals are worth more than $5 billion per year, Forbes says.
Of the top 50 teams on Forbes’ list, NFL teams accounted for 27 of them, including five – the Cowboys, New England Patriots, Washington Redskins, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers – in the top 10. While the Cowboys’ value was up 25 percent from last year’s number, the 49ers were up 69 percent, according to Forbes, after seeing increased revenues from Levi’s Stadium. Of the 27 NFL teams on the list, the Redskins saw the least amount of increase in their value, up 19 percent.
The former No. 1 on the list, soccer club Real Madrid, saw an increase of 12 percent but fell to No. 2 overall as the Cowboys overtook Madrid. Eight soccer clubs made the top 50.
Only seven MLB clubs made the list, topped by the New York Yankees, who ranked fourth overall with a valuation of $3.4 billion. Last year, 12 MLB teams were on the list.
All of the NFL teams in the top 20 overall were valued at more than $2 billion, which is the average value of an NFL franchise, according to the calculations of the financial magazine.
Below, Yotter ranks the NFL teams that made the top 50, with their overall ranking and percentage of increase in value in parentheses. And above, Stephen Jones' video visit in which he talks about not the value of the franchise, but of the 2016 edition of the football team. But in between, a Cowboys-related parlor game that Jerry Jones' critics probably find tantalizing, one that I even play with Jerry on Monday night at his annual Cowboys Camp Media Party (at the gorgeously over-the-top Nobu in Malibu) ...
What if Jerry really wanted to put the Cowboys up for sale? What would be the ramifications? What would be the real price tag?
"Well, I wouldn't!'' Jones tells me, his hands becoming animated, the Johnny Walker Blue splashing about in his glass almost the same way waves crash against the shore outside the Nobu dining room. "First, recognize that the Cowboys are my family business. The Cowboys are our legacy here, and they'll stay in the family and in the family. The value that people talk about and write about -- that 'value' doesn't begin to encompass the 'value' that the Dallas Cowboys have to the Jones family.''
Indeed, the Cowboys are his family heirloom. His accomplishments (yes, we know, three Super Bowls aren't nearly enough!) are to be passed down to his children, and his children's children. This rubs some observers the wrong way, I know. I've never been quite sure why some DFW media outlets are so quick to criticize the training-camp presence of Jones' teenage grandkids, for instance -- jealousy? -- but I can say with certainty that my kids and my grandkids would be on-the-job in our family biz, for fun and for profit.
They Cowboys are also the centerpiece to billions of dollars worth of other businesses; Jones family real estate, and oil-and-gas, and entertainment ... all of them are enhanced by the Jones' associate with the Cowboys.
So ... the Joneses aren't selling the Cowboys. Not in Jerry's lifetime. Not in Stephen, Charlotte and Jerry Jr's lifetime. And not in the foreseeable future well beyond that, either.
But if ...
Our buddy Jeff Sullivan, who writes for the Cowboys magazine and has a fine relationship with the Jones family, says that "someone would pay double'' the $4 billion to own the Cowboys, a franchise that Jones purchased a quarter-century ago for $140 mil. That's just a guess; there's no way to actually know that. (Indeed, Forbes' numbers are really guesses, too, as fun as they are.) But Sully can go beyond the guessing, adding, "I would bet my life (Jones would never sell). And he has told me he wouldn't take $100 billion (to do so.)''
"I will tell you this, all of the accolades, all of the compliments, complimentary things that are said about the team, financial, all of that, I’d trade that and I’d show you how to do that in about 15 minutes for first downs. We need some first downs around here and we need some touchdowns and we need some wins. Those are the kind of things that are the most meaningful to us.''
There are other things meaningful to Jones. I am told at the party that there is a Hall-of-Fame campaign brewing on behalf of Jones, that there aren't any NFL owners who would oppose such an idea, that there are no loud rumblings from media people on the committee who oppose it, either. Three Super Bowls is a justification for this. But so is the business of the NFL and the marketing of the NFL and the innovation of the NFL, all of which have Jones' fingerprints all over them, all of which put so many other NFL teams on the Forbes list in ways most of the other owners never dreamed possible ... until Jones showed them the way.
He is a force of nature, one-of-a-kind, valuable to the NFL in ways it was once scared to realize ... and maybe the greatest salesman of all time.
"There are five essential rules of sales,'' he tells me at the party, the Johnny Walker Blue still un-sipped because of the intensity of the conversation. And he punches the California night air by holding up five fingers.
"One, ask for the damn sale!''
And then he folds the five fingers, dramatically letting his hand slump to his side.
"And,'' he stage-whispers, "I forget the other four.''
And now those Forbes NFL values -- numbers created in large part by Jerry Jones' Hall-of-Fame-level touch:
2. (6 overall) New England Patriots – $3.2 billion (23 percent)
3. (8) Washington Redskins – $2.85 billion (19 percent)
4. (9) New York Giants – $2.8 billion (33 percent)
5. (10) San Francisco 49ers – $2.7 billion (69 percent)
6. (13) New York Jets – $2.6 billion (44 percent)
7. (14) Houston Texans – $2.5 billion (35 percent)
8. (16) Chicago Bears – $2.45 billion (44 percent)
9. (17) Philadelphia Eagles – $2.4 billion (37 percent)
10. (25) Green Bay Packers – $1.95 billion (42 percent)
11. (26) Denver Broncos – $1.94 billion (34 percent)
12. (27) Baltimore Ravens – $1.93 billion (29 percent)
13. (29) Pittsburgh Steelers – $1.9 billion (46 percent)
14. (31) Indianapolis Colts – $1.88 billion (34 percent)
15. (32) Seattle Seahawks – $1.87 billion (41 percent)
16. (33) Miami Dolphins -- $1.85 billion (42 percent)
17. (35) Atlanta Falcons – $1.67 billion (48 percent)
18. (39) Minnesota Vikings – $1.59 billion (38 percent)
19. (40) Carolina Panthers – $1.56 billion (25 percent)
20. (42) Arizona Cardinals – $1.54 billion (54 percent)
21. (43) Kansas City Chiefs – $1.53 billion (39 percent)
22. (44) San Diego Chargers – $1.525 billion (53 percent)
23. (45) New Orleans Saints – $1.515 billion (36 percent)
24. (46) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – $1.51 billion (23 percent)
25. (47) Cleveland Browns – $1.5 billion (34 percent)
26. (49) Tennessee Titans – $1.49 billion (28 percent)
27. (50) Jacksonville Jaguars – $1.48 billion (53 percent)