Despite fumbles, 'Skins hold onto top franchise value

On-field woes don't affect bottom line

Patriots 3rd

Pro Football

September 02, 2005|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The highest-valued team in the NFL spends lavishly and knows intuitively how to grind the league's revenue machine.

The third most valued team operates with fiscal restraint and places a greater emphasis on organizational teamwork.

Clearly, the contrast in style and substance between the free-spending Washington Redskins and the more conservative New England Patriots couldn't be greater.

The Redskins have earned one playoff berth in the past 12 years; the Patriots have won three of the past four Super Bowls.

This year's franchise valuations by Forbes magazine, due to hit newsstands by Monday, show that the league's top revenue teams aren't necessarily the ones who win the most.

According to Forbes, the Redskins remain the No. 1-valued team in the NFL at $1.264 billion. The Dallas Cowboys, who have made the playoffs once in the past five years, are second at $1,063 billion.

The Patriots ($1.040 billion) and Philadelphia Eagles ($952 million), who played each other in last February's Super Bowl, rank third and fourth.

The Ravens, with an estimated value of $864 million, are 11th on the list.

The top of this year's valuations is notable for several reasons. For the first time, the league has three $1 billion franchises. Dallas and New England join the Redskins, who crashed the $1 billion barrier a year ago.

Four of the top six teams have had stadiums built in the past five years, and the Cowboys have a new stadium coming.

An oddity: Three of the four highest-valued teams come from the NFC East.

Plus, the top of the list represents an odd blend of ownership style.

Washington's Daniel Snyder and Dallas' Jerry Jones are micromanagers who can tweak their financial reports as well as their rosters. New England's Robert Kraft and Philadelphia's Jeffrey Lurie turn football operations over to football people without interference.

Michael Ozanian, a senior editor at Forbes and editor on the NFL valuations list, describes Kraft as unassuming and cautious about taking credit.

Ozanian credits Snyder with capitalizing on the Redskins' strong fan base to gain marketing leverage.

"The Redskins' previous owner [Jack Kent Cooke] didn't care at all about the team from a business sense," Ozanian said yesterday. "He just wanted to win. He didn't try to maximize marketing revenue.

"[Snyder] has been gouging the fans. He was one of the first ones to charge fans to watch practice. Bob Kraft would never do anything like that."

Forbes lists the Redskins' revenues at a league-high $287 million, with an operating income of $53.8 million, second highest in the league behind the Cowboys. Snyder nevertheless achieved a 15 percent increase in franchise value over last year.

"From a business perspective, you can't say that what Snyder is doing is wrong because of the value and the profits he has in his franchise," Ozanian said. "He paid a record amount for the team [$750 million, including the purchase of FedEx Field], and had a ton of debt on the franchise. So, to a certain degree, I can understand it.

"If you contrast Snyder, where the value is maximized, with Kraft, I don't get the feeling that Kraft wants to have the most valuable team in football. He wants to build value, he wants to make money and pay off the debt. I get the feeling he's not the kind of guy going after the next nickel. Snyder is. It would kill Snyder if he found a nickel unturned."

Other Ozanian observations:

Teams that desperately need new stadiums: Minnesota Vikings (32nd and last in value), Oakland Raiders (30) and Atlanta Falcons (28).

Franchises that may have peaked: Jacksonville Jaguars (27) and Kansas City Chiefs (19). "If the Chiefs had a good stadium, the team is easily worth $150 million more," he said.

Underachieving franchises: Cincinnati Bengals (23) and Chicago Bears (10). "There's no way the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers should be worth more than the Bears. The Bengals' ownership has no street credit. With that stadium, they should be worth at least $100 million more."

On the Ravens: "For their market, they've done well. ... Their value probably will go up at the same rate the league's TV deal does."

Big money

The 12 highest-valued teams in the NFL, according to Forbes magazine:

No. Team Value

1. Redskins $1.264 billion

2. Cowboys $1.063 billion

3. Patriots $1.040 billion

4. Eagles $952 million

5. Texans $946 million

6. Broncos $907 million

7. Browns $892 million

8. Panthers $878 million

9. Buccaneers $877 million

10. Bears $871 million

11. Ravens $864 million

12. Dolphins $856 million

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