Denver Broncos top list of most expensive U.S. sports team sales

ByWilliam E. Ricks via ESPN logo
Saturday, June 25, 2022

It takes quite a bit of capital to buy an American sports team, and the impending sale of the Denver Broncos proves that point.

According to ESPN's Jeff Legwold, the Broncos entered a sale agreement Tuesday with the Walton-Penner family ownership group for $4.65 billion. The sale is subject to review by the NFL's finance committee, and 24 league owners need to vote yes for the transaction to be approved.

The Walton-Penner group includes Rob Walton, his daughter Carrie Walton Penner and her husband Greg Penner. The ownership group also includes Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments, chair of the board of the Starbucks Corp. and a director at JP Morgan Chase. Walton is an heir to retail company Walmart's fortune and served as the business' chairman from 1992 to 2015.

Read More: Everything you need to know about the Broncos sale

The historic sale of the Broncos got us thinking of some other landmark team purchases in American sports.

Here's a list of some of the most expensive franchise purchases in U.S. sports:

Denver Broncos

Sale price: $4.65 billion

The Walton-Penner group's pending $4.65 billion purchase of the Broncos breaks the previous record sale price for an NFL team by a wide margin. Former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson sold the franchise to billionaire David Tepper for $2.275 billion in 2018. It's also over $2 billion more than the next closest U.S. sports team sale.

Walton's net worth is $57.9 billion, according to Forbes. His cousin and another Walmart heir, Ann Walton, is the wife of Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke. Kroenke also owns three Colorado sports teams: the NBA's Denver Nuggets, NHL's Colorado Avalanche and MLS's Colorado Rapids.

New York Mets

Sale price: $2.4 billion

The Mets had the honor of having the most expensive team sale in American sports until the Broncos came along. In 2020, hedge fund manager Steve Cohen purchased the Mets for $2.4 billion.The Los Angeles Dodgers previously held the mark for the most expensive MLB team sale when they sold for $2 billion in 2012.

Cohen is the founder of Point 72 Asset Management and now-defunct SAC Capital Advisors.

Brooklyn Nets

Sale price: $2.35 billion

In 2019, Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai bought the Nets for $2.35 billion from Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Tsai already had 49% ownership from Prokhorov in 2018 but accelerated the timeline for full ownership. Along with the then-record purchase for Brooklyn, Tsai also purchased Barclays Center, the Nets' home arena, in a separate transaction for roughly $1 billion.

Brooklyn isn't the only New York-based sports team Tsai owns. He bought the WNBA's New York Liberty franchise in Jan. 2019.

Carolina Panthers

Sale price: $2.275 billion

The Panthers became available for sale after the 2017 NFL season after sexual harassment and workplace misconduct accusationswere made against former owner Richardson. Tepper, whose net worth is $16.7 billion according to Forbes, bought the team for $2.275 billion. Before taking over Carolina, Tepper had a 5% ownership stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Appaloosa founder also spent $325 million in 2019 to bring MLS its 30th team, Charlotte FC.

Houston Rockets

Sale price: $2.2 billion

Former Rockets owner Leslie Alexander sold the team to Texas native and billionaire Tilman Fertitta for $2.2 billion in 2019. Fertitta grew up in Galveston, Texas, and was a regular attendant at Houston's games before buying the franchise.

According to his website, he is the sole owner of Fertitta Entertainment, which owns the restaurant giant Landry's, the Golden Nugget Casinos and Hotels and the Rockets. Fertitta also has his own TV show on CNBC called "Million Dollar Buyer."