Five best teams to own
New York Yankees
Clearly the gold standard, the Rolls Royce, the creme de la creme of sports franchises in North America. If the Dodgers could be sold for $2.15 billion, what are the Yankees worth? And yet if they went on the market today, suitors would line up. Why? Because they are a cash machine. What makes the Yankees so valuable is they own their own television station, the YES Network. Instead of getting money for TV rights, the Yankees get every cent from the advertising on YES.
Los Angeles Lakers
Next season, the Lakers begin a television deal that will pay them $200 million annually for the next 20 years. In recent years, the Lakers were the team in Los Angeles because the Dodgers were a mess, the Clippers were perennially bad and the Kings weren't that much of an attraction. Best of all, the Lakers don't have to compete with an NFL team. However, things are changing. The Dodgers are back on track, the Clippers finally put together a winner and the Kings are in the Stanley Cup final. Still, the Lakers, for now, remain the marquee team in Tinseltown.
San Antonio Spurs
Forbes recently valued the Spurs the ninth-most valuable team in the NBA with an estimated worth of $418 million. Quite impressive considering San Antonio is the 29th-ranked television market in the country. So what makes the Spurs so appealing? Well, for starters, they are good and have been for years. Best of all, they have no competition. They are the only game in town. Portland and Orlando are two other successful NBA teams with no competition for the sports dollar.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Our pick for the team in North America with the most rabid following. True, most teams have passionate fans. Some teams — I'm thinking Yankees, Red Sox, Steelers, Packers, Cowboys — seem to have fans that take their intensity far beyond most. But the Leafs aren't merely intensely popular in Toronto but in most of Canada. Most of that country follows hockey like a religion, and all of the Canadian teams have great fans, especially Montreal. However, you will find a heavy clump of Leafs fans in every pocket of the country, and their devotion remains astounding considering the team hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967.
They remain America's team. They have the best stadium in the NFL and a tradition bigger than the size of Texas. Their revenues last year are believed to be somewhere in the half-a-billion range. CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell recently told ESPNDallas.com: "The Yankees would be worth about $4 billion, and given the revenues, given the new stadium, given national TV rights, everything coming in … (the Cowboys are) probably worth about a billion dollars more than the Yankees."
Five worst teams to own
Tampa Bay Rays
Sorry, and this has nothing to do with Stuart Sternberg's job as owner and just how well this organization is run. Working on a financially responsible budget, the Rays executive staff of Sternberg, president Matt Silverman and vice president Andrew Friedman, as well as manager Joe Maddon, have put together an organization that is as impressive as any in baseball. But the team needs a new stadium and has a fan base that would rather stay home and watch on TV instead of going to the ballpark. On the field, everything is great. Off the field? I wouldn't touch it.
New York Islanders
This the Tampa Bay Rays of the National Hockey League. Oh, except for the winning part. This once-proud franchise won four consecutive Stanley Cups in the early 1980s, but it has missed the playoffs in 13 of the past 17 seasons. The Islanders haven't won a playoff series since 1993. And they've finished last in each of the past five seasons. Worst of all, they play in the 40-year-old Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which might be the worst pro sports venue in the country.
Let's start with a dump of a stadium. The O.co Coliseum, also known as Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, is the worst stadium in baseball. Yep, worse than the Trop. Maybe that's why the A's had the worst attendance in baseball in 2011, averaging just more than 18,000 a game. The A's are the second team in a two-team market, behind the Giants, and the hopes of building a stadium remain iffy, at best. The A's Moneyball ways have garnered only meager success, and they haven't had a winning record since 2006.
What does it say when a team has, arguably, the most beautiful stadium in the major leagues and yet has a franchise value that is 28th among the 30 MLB teams? It tells you the organization is lousy. It hasn't had a winning record since 1992 and don't expect that streak to end this season. Forbes estimates the Pirates value at $336 million, paltry in baseball circles.
The Jaguars are consistently listed among the least-valued franchises in the NFL with a worth somewhere in the $800 million range. They play in a cavernous stadium and simply aren't good enough to fill it. The only salvation is this franchise could ultimately end up being a team that is moved to Los Angeles. Then, and only then, might it be a franchise worth owning.
tom jones' two cents
Last week, rumors surfaced that the Steinbrenner family might be interested in selling the Yankees. Turns out, it appears as if it was nothing more than a rumor. Managing partner Hal Steinbrenner strongly denied the team was for sale and added, "I expect that the Yankees will be in my family for many years to come.'' However, the rumor got me thinking about which pro teams in North America would be the most desirable to own. And which teams would you not want to own? Here's my list of the best and worst teams to own: