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NFL

Who is Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown & what's his net worth?

At the helm of the Cincinnati Bengals since 1991, 86-year-old Mike Brown's ownership style has made him an unpopular figure among fans of the NFL franchise.

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Super Bowl LVI | Rams vs Bengals live updates

The Cincinnati Bengals are in the Super Bowl for the first time in the 31-year tenure of Mike Brown, their unpopular owner and de facto general manager.

Brown has become known for his frugal leadership of a franchise that has enjoyed very little on-field success since he took over as owner from his father, Paul Brown, the legendary former NFL coach and executive who co-founded the Bengals.

Bengals winless in Playoffs for first 30 years of Mike Brown's stewardship

Under the ownership of Brown Sr, the Bengals reached the Super Bowl twice, in 1982 and 1988, losing to the San Francisco 49ers on both occasions.

Under Brown Jr, who took over following his father’s death in August 1991, Cincinnati failed to reach the Playoffs once until 2005, and had not won a single postseason game until their Wild Card Round victory over the Las Vegas Raiders this season.

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Brown's Bengals ownership characterised by cost-cutting

There are a number of anecdotes that illustrate the frugality of the Bengals’ 86-year-old owner, who - together with the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones - is one of just two franchise chiefs in the NFL not to have a general manager on the payroll.

Speaking to Fox’s Colin Cowherd in 2018, former Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said players had to supply their own bottled water and Gatorade during his time with the team. Meanwhile, in an interview with NPR this week, Cincinnati Enquirer journalist Paul Daugherty revealed full-sized towels have been known to be a scarcity in the locker room.

“There was a time not so long ago when the team handed out towels to its players for use after showers,” Daugherty said. “They were about the size of a hand towel, and you haven't seen sort of ironic comedy until you've seen a 320-pound offensive tackle trying to dry himself off with a hand towel.”

The Bengals are also the only NFL franchise based in a cold climate that does not have an indoor training facility, while Brown’s traditional reluctance to spend big on putting his roster together means Cincinnati have been “regularly among teams with the most [salary] cap space in the league”, columnist Benjamin A. Farringer noted in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

A very different owner to Rams' Kroenke

Brown certainly contrasts with Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Bengals’ Super Bowl LVI opponents the Los Angeles Rams. While Kroenke’s net worth is now placed by Forbes at $10.7bn, the most recent estimate of Brown’s fortune, in 2015, was a comparatively modest $925m.

And as the Rams prepare to host this season’s NFL title decider at the state-of-the-art, $5bn SoFi Stadium delivered by Kroenke, the Bengals’ home arena is a reminder that Brown threatened to move his team to another city until a sales-tax hike enabled Hamilton County to use taxpayers’ money to build Paul Brown Stadium in 2000.

Fans unlikely to give Brown much credit if Bengals win Super Bowl

According to Daugherty, a first ever Super Bowl win for Cincinnati on Sunday would do little to boost Brown’s standing among the Bengals support. “I think they could win the Super Bowl every year until Mike Brown is no longer with us and the fans as a whole would still dislike Mike Brown intensely,” Daugherty told NPR.

However, Daugherty says Bengals supporters would be wrong not to give Brown credit for his role in getting Cincinnati to their first Super Bowl in 33 years - even if he is now less active in the day-to-day running of the franchise, having ceded front-office power to his daughter, Katie Blackburn, his son-in-law, Troy Blackburn, and his son, Paul H. Brown.

“He did have to OK the money that they've spent in the last couple of years on free agents, and they've hit home runs with almost every free agent that they've bought,” Daugherty told NPR. “And that's a huge reason they're in this game. So if you're going to blame him for being frugal, you have to tip your cap to him now for helping them to be where they are."

Director of player personnel Duke Tobin (left), owner Mike Brown (centre) and head coach Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals pose for a team photo ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl against the Los Angeles Rams.
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Director of player personnel Duke Tobin (left), owner Mike Brown (centre) and head coach Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals pose for a team photo ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl against the Los Angeles Rams.RONALD MARTINEZAFP

"Cincinnati, you owe him an apology"

Farringer agrees with Daugherty - and clearly feels Bengals fans should lay off Brown. In an opinion piece last month, he argued: “Is Mike Brown’s management style worthy of criticism? Absolutely. Does it warrant the vitriol that has become the norm for any discussion of Bengal’s football over the past 30 years? Not even close […].

“Remember that Mike Brown is a human being running a sports franchise in the shadow of his legendary father. A common comparison that will be forever impossible for him to measure up to. He isn’t a politician, and he isn’t a Bond villain hellbent on ruining your Sundays every fall.

“And for all of the constant berating and insulting remarks made towards a man who seems to have finally got the team moving in the right direction with the addition of [star quarterback] Joe Burrow, yes Cincinnati, you owe him an apology.”

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