Former jobs of every NFL owner
The chances of playing in the National Football League are crazy low—only 1.6% of all NCAA football players will make it to the pros—and becoming an owner is no easy achievement either.
Some lucky owners enter the exclusive club of 32 through inheritance, while others come calling with suitcases full of cash, a smile, and fingers crossed the other owners will give them the nod. Those who make it in are likely to line their pockets even more: The average NFL team value increased by 11% to $2.86 billion in 2018, according to Forbes.
But what did NFL owners do before they reached such rarified air and did they ever slog away like the majority of sports fans who fill their stadiums? (You know, the ones who are 100% sure they would do a better job if they were in charge of team decisions?) Stacker scoured the web for biographies of owners and interviews straight from the source to find out.
Turns out a handful of owners worked in a family business. Sometimes, that business was a professional football franchise, and they moved up the ranks.
Real estate, law, finance, film production, and oil exploration have been wealth producers for some on the list, and there are entrepreneurs in the bunch, too.
Some owners toiled at least a little of their lives at ordinary workplaces. You could have asked one to help you find a book, for instance, and bought gas from another. You might have even glimpsed a future owner hard at work washing dishes.
Maybe you have more in common with a front-office bigwig than you think. Read on to learn how many of today’s NFL owners have spent their working days.
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Arizona Cardinals: Michael Bidwill
- Year acquired: 2019
Working as a Phoenix-based federal prosecutor for six years before moving to the NFL’s oldest franchise as general counsel isn’t a normal career path, but it was a natural fit for Michael Bidwill. The team has been in his family since his grandfather purchased what was then known as the Chicago Cardinals in 1933. Michael became president in 2007 and then chairman in 2019 following the passing of his father, Bill Bidwill.
Atlanta Falcons: Arthur Blank
- Year acquired: 2002
After Arthur Blank and his pal Bernie Marcus got fired from a home improvement company called Handy Dan, the two opened their own version in 1978 and named it The Home Depot. Blank, who retired from his company in 2001, hadn’t always worked in the sector: His resume includes nearly five years at the accounting firm of Arthur Young & Company, a couple more at his family’s pharmaceutical distribution company, and positions as chief financial officer and president at Elliot's Drug Stores/Stripe Discount Stores.
Baltimore Ravens: Steve Bisciotti
- Year acquired: 2004
In 1983, Stephen Bisciotti and a cousin founded a staffing company called Aerotek that initially filled aeronautics, engineering, and light industrial positions. Bisciotti’s business, now known as the parent company Allegis Group, provides services to a wide range of industries and is currently the largest privately held talent management firm in the world, according to Forbes.
Buffalo Bills: Kim and Terry Pegula
- Year acquired: 2014
Talk about a good investment: After short stints at Getty Oil Co. and Felmont Oil Co., Terry Pegula launched the oil and gas company East Resources in 1983 with $7,500 he borrowed from family and friends. Twenty-seven years later he sold most of the business to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 billion and brought in more cash in 2014 by selling drilling rights on about 75,000 acres of land to American Energy.
Carolina Panthers: David Tepper
- Year acquired: 2018
David Tepper, whom Forbes describes as “one of the greatest hedge fund managers ever,” started his career as a credit analyst with Equibank and worked at Republic Steel and Keystone Mutual Funds. He spent eight years at Goldman Sachs before starting his lucrative Appaloosa Management L.P. in 1993. Tepper sold his shares in the Pittsburgh Steelers when he bought the Panthers.
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Chicago Bears: Virginia Halas McCaskey
- Year acquired: 1983
Virginia Halas McCaskey has never known a life that wasn’t entwined with the Chicago Bears. In 1920, three years before she was born, her father, George "Papa Bear" Halas Sr., represented the team when it was founded by the Staley Starch Company. The next year the company gave Halas the franchise and the okay to move it to the Windy City. McCaskey gained control of the team in 1983 following her father’s death.
Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Brown
- Year acquired: 1991
Mike Brown has been a part of the Cincinnati Bengals organization since his father, Paul Brown, helped found the team that made its debut in the American Football League in 1968. After the legendary coach died, Mike inherited the franchise. Mike worked for another icon too: former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner once hired him as a deckhand for a ship in his family’s freighter company.
Cleveland Browns: Jimmy and Dee Haslam
- Year acquired: 2012
Jimmy Haslam is CEO of Pilot Flying J, which operates travel centers in North America, and his ties with the company run deep: His pops opened the first Pilot gas station in 1958, and Jimmy worked at Pilot stores throughout high school and college. His wife is executive producer of the RIVR Media companies, which have produced series including “Trading Spaces" for TLC. Jimmy sold his interest in the Pittsburgh Steelers when he and Dee purchased the Browns.
Dallas Cowboys: Jerry Jones
- Year acquired: 1989
In 1989 Jerry Jones bought the team Forbes now calls “the world’s most valuable sports franchise,” but he made his initial fortune from oil investments in the 1970s and 1980s. Even earlier, he worked at his dad’s insurance company, Modern Security Life, and made $500,000 from its sale—a nice bundle of cash for a 27-year-old with Texas-size ambitions.
Denver Broncos: Family of Pat Bowlen
- Year acquired: 2019
Ownership remains in limbo amid a legal fight to determine which of Pat Bowlen’s kids will become the next controlling owner. Dad, who passed away in 2019 and purchased the club in 1984, had practiced law and worked at his father’s oil company Regent Drilling before co-founding Batoni-Bowlen Enterprises, a real estate and construction business.
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