As NFL teams become more and more profitable, they also become more and more valuable. As one league source with detailed knowledge of the manner in which league ownership works tells PFT, they’ll eventually become too valuable for one person or family to own.
Under prior (and possibly current) rules, a single family must own at least 30 percent of a team, with at least one individual in the family owning 10 percent. That rule arose from the reconfiguration of the Steelers’ ownership, with several members of the family who acquired legal gaming interests that conflicted with league rules selling out, and with Art Rooney II and Dan Rooney emerging as 15-percent owners who were welded together into one 30-percent stake.
In 2011, the NFL considered dropping the minimum per-family requirement to 25 percent. It’s unclear whether the reduction was adopted.
Regardless of whether the minimum ownership stake per family is now 25 percent or 30 percent, the ever-increasing value of franchise will require further changes to the rules, because there eventually won’t be enough families with the assets to acquire a team, or with the extra cash to pay the estate taxes when the person owning the 10-percent stake passes.
It’s unclear when the problem will reach critical mass, and it’s unknown how the NFL will deal with the situation. The easy answer will be to keep dropping the percentages for a single person or family. This will require each family to find more and more minority owners to hold the rest of the team.
At some point, the possibility of corporate ownership will have to be considered — along with the prospect of making each team a publicly-traded corporation with shares of stock worth more than the frame-ready certificate on which the small piece of ownership is printed.