Fourth and Long on Real Estate


tephen Ross, chairman of Related Companies, has come under fire in recent weeks due to his ownership of the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins, a franchise that is embroiled in a bullying scandal that has grabbed headlines far beyond the sports pages. Mr. Ross’s ownership of the Dolphins is largely overshadowed in New York by his real estate dealings, but it is those deals that allowed him to spend more than $1 billion on the team in the first place. He’s not, however, the only billionaire with ties to the real estate industry who has chosen to spend lavish wealth on an NFL team. Below, The Commercial Observer takes a look at those NFL owners, including Mr. Ross, who owe at least some of their wealth to wheeling and dealing in real estate.

Stephen Ross, Zygi Wilf, Miami Minnesota Dolphins Vikings
Mr. Ross, 73, founded Related Companies, a real estate development company, in 1973 and has been part of some of the most significant developments in New York over the past 40 years. Development of mixed-use projects at the Time Warner Center and Hudson Yards are just two of the developments that have helped Mr. Ross accumulate nearly $5 billion in net worth. Some of that wealth was spent on the Miami Dolphins, the NFL franchise he acquired a majority stake in between 2008 and 2009 for more than $1 billion. Black eye: Bullying controversy between players Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, which included racial abuse. Mr. Wilf, 63, presides over the family business and is head of Garden Commercial Properties, a real estate developer and operator of more than 30 shopping centers and malls throughout Northern New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Along with five partners, Mr. Wilf acquired the Minnesota Vikings franchise for approximately $600 million in 2005. Black eye: A longrunning New Jersey lawsuit culminated in September, finding Mr. Wilf and two relatives liable for nearly $85 million worth of damages for Ada Reichmann and his brother over an apartment complex deal gone sour.

Alex Spanos, San Diego Chargers
Mr. Spanos, 90, accumulated his wealth via the A.G. Spanos Companies, an apartment builder that by the late 1970s was the biggest in the U.S., building 15,000 units in 22 states in 1977, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. In 1984, Mr. Spanos acquired a 60 percent share in the San Diego Chargers for a bargain $48 million. Over the course of the following decade, Mr. Spanos snapped up the shares of many of his minority partners before settling for 97 percent control of the team. Black eye: A.G Spanos settled a lawsuit in 2010 requiring that the development company spend more than $12 million to retrofit apartment units judged to be out of compliance with fair housing laws.

Stan Kroenke, Malcolm St. Louis Rams Glazer, Mr. Kroenke, 66, founded Tampa Bay real estate development Buccaneers firm the Kroenke Group
in 1983 and a subsidiary company THF Realty in 1991. THF developed a number of shopping centers around the country, many of which were anchored by Walmart stores (founded by Mr. Kroenke’s fatherin-law, Bud Walton.) The THF venture went a long way toward making Mr. Kroenke a billionaire, and in 1995 the developer acquired a 40 percent share in the St. Louis Rams through Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which also owns stakes in numerous other sports franchises, including the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and Arsenal Football Club. In 2010, he became the full owner of the Rams. Mr. Glazer, 85, took over the family watch parts company at age 15. Later, he formed real estate development company First Allied, which owns more than 6.7 million square feet of community shopping centers throughout the U.S. Mr. Glazer purchased the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995 following the death of the team’s former owner. In a drastic change of fortunes, the team, which had a .307 winning percentage in its first 19 years, won Super Bowl XXXVII. Black eye: The Buccaneers were sued for $270 million in June for allegedly sending “junk faxes” to 180,000 Florida residents.

Jed York, San Francisco 49ers
Mr. York, 32, is the youngest owner in the National Football League and became the team’s president and owner in 2009. A relative of former owner Edward DeBartolo, Mr. York owes his position largely to the success of the Debartolo Corporation, one of the largest shopping center companies. In 1996, Simon Property Group acquired the company. Black eye: Mr. York’s uncle Edward DeBartolo Jr. pleaded guilty in federal court in 1998 to a felony charge of failing to report that the former governor of Louisiana extorted $400,000 from him to win a casino license.

Black eye: Early this year, Mr. Kroenke and business partner Michael Staenberg filed a series of lawsuits against one another, including one alleging Mr. Kroenke owed his partner more than $220,000.


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