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Worst Owners in Sports

Sports | By The Top 13 on April 29, 2010

With the news this week that Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was nearing a deal to acquire the Washington Wizards, we couldn't help but think that the Wizards were getting one of the better young owners in sports. There are many owners of North American sports franchises who wouldn't continue to spend in the face of the significant financial losses Leonsis has suffered as a pro sports owner. Moreover, there are plenty of owners who haven't made nearly as many smart personnel moves as he has. So today, we take a look at those owners who appear more concerned with profits than wins, and who have continually whiffed when making coaching choices and personnel decisions. Here are the Top 13 Worst Owners in Sports.

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Donald Sterling

1

Donald Sterling

Los Angeles Clippers

Though Sterling has owned the Clippers for almost thirty years, the team has put up only two winning seasons during his tenure. Sterling - a real estate mogul and attorney - paid only $12.5 million for the team back in 1981, and it's now worth nearly $300 million. Nevertheless, he's developed a reputation for penny-pinching that has frustrated the Clipper faithful. Though he’s been more willing in recent years to spend on star players, virtually every player move has backfired. Making matters worse, Sterling has repeatedly been accused of discrimination - both as a landlord by minority tenants and as the Clippers owner by former longtime team executive Elgin Baylor.

William Clay Ford

2

William Clay Ford

Detroit Lions

Over the past two seasons, the once proud Lions franchise has won a grand total of two games, including a winless 2008 campaign. The team hasn't reached the playoffs since 1999 and hasn't won a playoff game since 1991, and Detroit fans blame Ford, a grandchild of Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford, who purchased the team for a mere $4.5 million in 1964. Ford stubbornly stuck by former team president Matt Millen throughout most of the 2000s, despite repeated personnel mistakes, head coaching changes, and a vibrant "Fire Millen" campaign.

Madison Square Garden (James Dolan)

3

Madison Square Garden (James Dolan)

New York Knicks & New York Rangers

Though Cablevision acquired the Knicks and Rangers in 1997, Dolan, the son of the company's founder, didn't assume a significant role in managing these two storied franchises until several years later. But he's more than made up for lost time, virtually destroying the teams, despite massive expenditures on "talent" and rabid fan bases in the country's biggest media market. Dolan's decision to stick by Isiah Thomas, despite his horrid personnel moves and a nasty sexual harassment suit, has to be the low point in his tenure. Worse for fans, the Knicks have not had a winning season in nearly ten years.

Peter Angelos

4

Peter Angelos

Baltimore Orioles

Angelos built his fortune as one of the country's best trial lawyers, reportedly earning more than $100 million in fees on a single asbestos exposure case. But as the owner of the Orioles, the team which he acquired in 1993, Angelos' performance leaves much to be desired. Though the first few seasons went well enough, the Birds haven't had a winning record in more than a decade and are currently the worst team in the league. The blame rightfully falls squarely on the shoulders of Angelos, who has yet to learn that managerial stability is critical and personnel decisions are best left to baseball people.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. (Richard Peddie)

5

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. (Richard Peddie)

Toronto Maple Leafs

Though MLSE also owns the Toronto Raptors and several other sports franchises, it's the way in which the entity's principals have managed the iconic Maple Leafs franchise that demands its inclusion on this Top 13. Though MLSE is worth nearly $2 billion, that wealth has done little to lift the flagging fortunes of the Leafs, whose die-hard fans have suffered for nearly 45 years without a Stanley Cup. The entity's complicated ownership structure may be to blame; the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan maintains a controlling interest in the sports conglomerate, and is clearly more concerned with the bottom line than with wins and losses.

Mike Brown

6

Mike Brown

Cincinnati Bengals

Although the Bengals are in the midst of a nearly 20-year tailspin, Brown refuses to hire a general manager, frequently handling personnel decisions and negotiations himself. His hands-on approach has led to frequent accusations by players and agents that he refuses to stick to deals he negotiates and that he's in over his head. Perhaps most troubling has been Brown's willingness to repeatedly take risks on players with histories of off-the-field problems, like Chris Henry. Bengals fans have tried game boycotts, billboards, and a host of other tactics in an unsuccessful effort to get Brown, who inherited the team from his father in 1991, to step aside.

Michael Heisley

7

Michael Heisley

Memphis Grizzlies

Heisley's tenure as ownership of the Grizzlies has been a disaster since the moment he purchased the team for $160 million in 2000. His first order of business was going back on his promise not to move the team from Vancouver, relocating just a year later to Memphis. It's bad enough that the Grizzlies haven't made it out of the first round of the playoffs even once, and in most seasons have been downright awful, but Heisley - a billionaire who made his fortune in computer sales - also gave away the team's best player (Pau Gasol) to the juggernaut Lakers in a blatant salary dump, virtually assuring Los Angeles a championship.

Daniel Snyder

8

Daniel Snyder

Washington Redskins

Having made his fortune by building a massive marketing company and selling it off for an enormous profit, there's no question that Snyder has keen business sense. But as a football owner, he's been clueless, chasing big names in coaching and free agency with disastrous results. The Redskins have had an overall losing record during Snyder's 11-year tenure as owner, and things got ugly last season as the Redskins stumbled out of the gate, again overburdened by unrealistic expectations. To suppress anti-Snyder demonstrations, Redskins fans were prohibited from bringing signs inside the stadium, though nothing could be done to stop the "Fire Snyder" chants. This year, the Redskins have again loaded up with a big-name new coach and free agents; we think we've seen this movie before.

Ted Lerner

9

Ted Lerner

Washington Nationals

Since Lerner bought the Nationals from Major League Baseball for $450 million in 2006, the team hasn't finished higher than fourth and hasn't even sniffed a winning record. The real estate mogul overcame opposition from Orioles owner Peter Angelos (who appears fourth on this Top 13) and controversy surrounding public funding to move the team to a brand new ballpark in Washington D.C. Nevertheless, he hasn't been able to change the on-field fortunes of the former Montreal Expos franchise. Plus, Lerner was in charge when the FBI launched an investigation into the conduct of his general manager, Jim Bowden, who was suspected of skimming bonus money from Latin American signees.

Al Davis

10

Al Davis

Oakland Raiders

While we give Davis credit for winning three Super Bowls in the 70s and 80s, his recent track record is nothing short of disastrous. Since the Raiders lost Super Bowl XXVII to Jon Gruden, the coach Davis forced out just the year before, the once-proud Raiders are a league worst 24-72. What's worse, the Castro-like Davis has created such a caustic front office environment that he can't recruit a new coach, and drama has swirled around several recent Raiders coaches, including Lane Kiffin and Tom Cable. Davis, who remains involved with football decisions, has also overseen the use of top draft choices on colossal busts like JaMarcus Russell, whom the Raiders are expected to release after drafting him first overall three years and about 50 pounds ago.

Charles Wang

11

Charles Wang

New York Islanders

Wang, who purchased a share of the Islanders in 2000 and became majority owner in 2004, built his fortune as CEO of Computer Associates and is notorious for his scorched-earth business tactics at the company, which he resigned from in disgrace in 2002 amid allegations that the company inflated revenues to vest management with lucrative stock options. As Islanders owner, Wang has been willing to spend but in all the wrong places; the absurdly lengthy contracts he gave to Russian enigma Alexi Yashin and brittle goalie Rick DiPietro have crippled the team financially. Wang has lost millions on the Islanders, and has publicly said that he regrets buying the team.

David Glass

12

David Glass

Kansas City Royals

This former senior executive at Wal-Mart has served as the Royals' chairman and CEO since 1993, and formally acquired the team for only $96 million in 2000. In the 16 seasons since he took control of the once proud franchise, the Royals have played .500 baseball just once, squeaking out 83 wins in 2003. Glass has shown a reluctance to spend the cash necessary to field a competitive team, and when he has spent, the team's free agent signings have been awful (e.g., Gil Meche and Jose Guillen). Even worse, Glass has drawn fire for revoking the press credentials of reporters who asked tough questions of team management and he vocally pushed for the use of scabs during the 1994-95 strike.

Chris Cohan

13

Chris Cohan

Golden State Warriors

This long-suffering Bay Area franchise has reached the playoffs just once since Cohan took control of the team during the 1994-95 season, posting only two winning seasons during that span. Cohan, a former cable TV mogul who acquired the team for $130 million, is currently engaged in a fight with the government over a $160 million tax bill. Perhaps his focus on his personal finances has taken his mind off the Warriors, who continue to toil under the defenseless leadership of head coach Don Nelson. Oddly, Cohan hired Nellie in 2006 despite the fact that the coach was running the Warriors when Cohan acquired the team and the two engaged in a bitter dispute when he left Golden State to helm the Knicks.

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Comments Leave a comment

rjasonf 

Can't believe Tom Hicks didn't make the list. Even if you aren't counting what he's doing to Liverpool, he's an awful owner.

7:05 AM   Apr 29, 2010

Darclaus11 

Yes, but it's also a list comprised totally of American Football owners, and maybe Baseball owners. I don't know, I'm not american, they all sound the same to me.

3:46 PM   Dec 18, 2010

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