Owning an NFL team is limited to the privileged few — there are just 32 franchises, valued at least $1.9 billion each. They change hands rarely and typically only among the super-wealthy because of that cost.
The most recent franchise sold was the Carolina Panthers, purchased last year by hedge fund billionaire David Tepper for $2.3 billion. The Seahawks have an estimated value of $2.8 billion, according to Forbes in the most recent of its annual NFL franchise valuations.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen bought the Seahawks in 1997 after the franchise’s previous owner, Ken Behring, threatened to move the team from Seattle. Allen was the among the first tech billionaires to buy a sports franchise, having picked up the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers in 1988.
Other tech leaders followed, such as former AOL executive Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics; former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers; and Broadcast.com entrepreneur Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
Bezos has not publicly expressed an interest in owning a sports franchise. Amazon does have a deal to stream the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” games to its Prime subscribers. Bezos and fellow Seattle-area executive Bill Gates are the richest men in the world, each with a current net worth of $109 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
It is unclear whether Bezos is much of a sports fan. Bezos did watch February’s Super Bowl in a luxury suite with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. During the game, Bezos posed for pictures, including one with Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin, brothers who play for the Seahawks, that announcer Rich Eisen posted on Instagram.
CBS Sports reported Sunday that Bezos has interest in purchasing an NFL team and has spent “considerable time around owners, including Washington’s Daniel Snyder.”
Redskins spokesman Sean DeBarbieri, though, said the team is “100 percent not for sale, and Daniel Snyder is not looking to sell any portion of the team.” DeBarbieri added that Snyder “has not seen Jeff Bezos in a decade.”
The Seahawks could be a more likely target for Bezos if he is genuinely interested in owning a team. And some NFL owners would welcome that.
“I’m sure that eventually it would be in everyone’s best interests if someone that’s as community-oriented as him gets involved in the Seattle situation,” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said.
The Seahawks are not for sale, said a person familiar with the team’s thinking who was not able to comment about it publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The question of the sale of the Seahawks first emerged a year ago, when Allen died of complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His sister, Jody, is the Seahawks’ chair, and she also is the trustee of the billionaire’s estate. Allen’s company, Vulcan, declined to comment.
“I will do all that I can to ensure that Paul’s vision is realized, not just for years, but for generations,” Jody Allen said in a statement after her brother’s death.
It is rare for an owner to publicly solicit a bid on a team. But the public expression of support for Bezos from Kraft, one of the league’s most influential owners, could indicate the relative ease the Amazon chief would have generating the 24 votes among the 32 owners needed to ratify any franchise sale.
Kraft met with Bezos during Super Bowl festivities last winter, and they posed together with rapper Meek Mill and Michael Rubin, co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, in an Instragram photo that Mill posted.
It is not the first time Bezos has been brought up as a possible Seahawks owner. Shortly after Allen’s death, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told Sports Illustrated he would welcome Bezos to the ownership ranks.
“I’d carry him piggyback to get him to the NFL,” Jones said at the time.