Sports Franchise: Not a Typical Business Model

Owning a sports franchise isn’t like owning other businesses. While operating, the people at the top of these businesses have to be worried about public perception regarding their activities. Chelsea F.C. owner Roman Abramovich found this out recently.  Due to his close ties to Russia and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Abramovich was disqualified as the director of the Chelsea Football Club by the English Premier League.

While navigating points spreads is a challenge for bettors, trying to put forward a strong public persona is important for owners. Some endear themselves to the fans and city, creating a long-lasting relationship. However, several others have been removed from ownership of the business in high-profile scandals. Here’s a look at some owners who didn’t have the best business practices and were barred from their leagues.

Maybe your crazy, racist grandma shouldn’t own the Reds?

handsome football player stadium business suit

Marge Schott was originally viewed as someone breaking through the glass ceiling for women in sports. She purchased a minority stake in the team in 1981 before buying a controlling interest in the Cincinnati Reds for $11 million in 1984. Once she took over, the Reds were known for keeping ticket prices low so families could afford to attend games. That’s about where the compliments of Schott begin and end.

Schott used to walk her Saint Bernard on the field and allow it to go to the bathroom on the playing surface. Then there would be a long line of inappropriate comments that would get her in trouble.

In the early 1990s, a trial brought to light that Schott had referred to Eric Davis and Dave Parker as racial slurs, according to the testimony of a former employee suing the team. Schott was also known for having an armband with a swastika on it and explained it away as being a gift from a former employee. Her racist, homophobic and comments about Adolf Hitler would lead to the MLB investigating her in 1993.

The result of that investigation was a $250,000 fine and a suspension from team operations in 1993. She would later receive a second suspension that banned her from day-to-day operations of the team until 1998. Facing a third investigation in 1999, Schott sold her stake in the team for $67 million to Carl Linder due to mounting pressure from the minority owners, who were planning to oust her.

Sterling gets bounced

Donald Sterling’s ownership of the San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers didn’t produce a lot of strong teams on the court. While initially promising the fine people of San Diego he would spend an unlimited amount to build a contender, Sterling proved to be stingy with money and later moved the Clippers north to Los Angeles.

When Sterling tried to move the team in 1982, it prompted an investigation from owners about issues he had playing players and coaches. Despite a recommendation they terminate Sterling’s ownership, then league Vice President David Stern suggested he maintain his position as owner and hire someone to run the day-to-day operations. Sterling would later move the team to Los Angeles in 1984. The league likely later regretted not ousting him.

Sterling would find himself in hot water in 2014 when TMZ released a message he left for a  mistress using racial slurs. He also asked her to not bring black people to Clippers’ games. Due to intense pressure from players, coaches and the public, the NBA gave Sterling a lifetime ban and forced him to sell the team.

Holding McCourt

MLB took over the Dodgers in 2011 following the embarrassing tenure of Frank McCourt. McCourt, who took over the Dodgers in 2004, was going through a divorce. Struggling with cash flow due to the pending divorce settlement, the future of Los Angeles’ team got caught up in the courts. Despite McCourt’s financial difficulties, he believed he could keep the team if MLB would approve a 20-year, $2.5 billion television deal Los Angeles had negotiated.

The league had appointed a person to oversee the day-to-day operations and determined Los Angeles barely made its payroll in June. McCourt was hanging onto hope the television deal could save his ownership. However, MLB determined this price was well under market value and rejected the deal.

Due to the television deal falling through, the Dodgers had to file for bankruptcy, the team would eventually be sold to Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC.

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