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MLB boasts two owners on the Forbes Top 20 rich list

While the NBA and NFL are well-represented alongside soccer and cricket, Major League Baseball can boast of two team owners making the Forbes Top 20 rich list.

While the NBA and NFL are well-represented alongside soccer and cricket, Major League Baseball can boast of two team owners making the Forbes rich list

As the first week of the 2023 MLB season slips under the stern, baseball has seen TV audiences enjoy a bump on last year and crowds are heading back to the ballpark in numbers. So far, more than two million fans have taken in an MLB game in person this season.

While much of this interest can be put down to the fact that this season has not suffered from the owner’s lockout of 2022 coupled with the renewed appetite that the World Baseball Classic has stoked in the public, there are also external factors that are at work.

Big baseball is now bigger-than-ever money, and nobody embodies that more than New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. Ever since picking up the club in 2020, Cohen has made a new virtue of heavy spending, picking up two future Hall of Fame starting pitchers in Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. He has also spent in every position around the field, topping the league with a payroll of $1.5 billion.

Yes, billion. With a B.

Forbes magazine has released their Top 20 richest sports owners list for 2023 and it comes as no surprise that Cohen is on it. With a personal net worth of $17.5 billion, he is the poster boy of an MLB version of Daddy Warbucks.

Cohen appears at number ten on the list, behind Steve Ballmer, owner of the NBA’s LA Clippers, Rob Walton, heir to the Wal-Mart fortune and owner of the NFL’s Denver Broncos, David Tepper, owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, and Daniel Gilbert, owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Mets owner’s spending habits were so disruptive to MLB, that the owner-instigated lockout of last season was implemented at least in part to make sure that a new tax was placed on team spending.

The current CBA includes a new tier of luxury tax, referred to as the “Cohen tax”, which charges any spend that exceeds the salary cap by $60 million or more with a whopping 80% tax rate.

The Forbes list is peopled, quite predictably, by a great many owners of soccer teams, both MLS and international leagues, and is topped by Mukesh Ambani, the Indian billionaire who owns the IPL cricket team the Mumbai Indians.

Baseball has an owner besides Cohen in the top 10, with Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, owner of the Japanese NPB league’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks coming in at seven.

But there is another MLB owner who appears on the list, and it may surprise readers to find that this is Atlanta Braves owner John Malone. Coming in at number 18 on the list with a personal net worth of $9.8 billion, Malone has a public image that is the polar opposite of Cohen’s.

The Braves are known as being almost congenitally allergic to spending money, coming in under the salary cap every season, and often by a long way. They frustrate their fan base with their reluctance to spend big, most recently blowing up in their face when they lost Freddy Freeman to the Dodgers, against the wishes of the fans, the club, and Freeman himself because of a reluctance to spend what amounted to peanuts.

Were it not for Atlanta’s uncanny knack for winning with home-grown talent and young players who are not yet at the free agency point of their career, then the news would be filled with calls for a change. As it stands, however, whatever the Braves are doing seems to be working, so more power to them.

Here is the entire top 20 list.

Forbes Top 20 sports team owners

OwnerLeague TeamNet Worth
Mukesh Ambani Indian Premier League Mumbai Indians $83.4 Billion
Steve Ballmer NBA Los Angeles Clippers$80.7 Billion
Rob Walton NFLDenver Broncos$57.6 Billion
François Pinault & family French Ligue 1Stade Rennais F.C.$40.1 Billion
Mark Mateschitz MLS, Formula 1, BundesligaNew York Red Bulls, Red Bull Racing, RB Leipzig$34.7 Billion
James Ratcliffe French Ligue 1OGC Nice$22.9 Billion
Masayoshi Son Japan’s NPB Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks $22.4 Billion Japan’s NPB Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks $22.4 Billion
David Tepper NFL, MLSCarolina Panthers, Charlotte FC$18.5 Billion
Daniel Gilbert NBACleveland Cavaliers$18 Billion
Steve Cohen MLBNew York Mets$17.5 Billion
Robert Pera NBAMemphis Grizzlies$15.5 Billion
Jerry Jones NFLDallas Cowboys$13.3 Billion
Stanley Kroenke NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, English Premier LeagueLos Angeles Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids, Arsenal FC$12.9 Billion
Shahid Khan NFL, English Premier LeagueJacksonville Jaguars, Fulham FC$12.1 Billion
Stephen Ross NFLMiami Dolphins$11.6 Billion
Philip Anschutz NHL, MLSLos Angeles Kings, LA Galaxy$10.9 Billion
Robert Kraft NFL, MLSNew England Patriots, New England Revolution$10.6 Billion
John Malone MLB Atlanta Braves$9.2 Billion
Hasso Plattner & family NHLSan Jose Sharks$8.6 Billion
Tilman Fertitta NBAHouston Rockets$8.1 Billion

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