The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Phoenix Ownership Envy Is Real


If initial reports are true, the Denver Broncos are about to be sold for more money than any other professional franchise in sports history: $4.5 billion dollars to Wal-Mart heir Rob Walton.

The sale continues to reflect a change that has been slowly happening for years but has accelerated pace more recently: billionaires want in and they desperately want to win.

David Tepper, Stan Kroenke, Steve Balmer and now Phil Knight and Rob Walton are examples of recent owners redefining ownership of a sports team in America.

The old model of ownership was a mom and pop show; almost an heirloom passed down generationally that is literally the family business. The team was almost always the sole provider for a large family and used to underwrite the family's lifestyle and place in social circles. The winning was nice but the profit and perks of ownership were even better.

Now, new owners are increasingly buying teams for obscene amounts of money with money they've earned from bigger, more successful businesses. Buying an NFL team isn't a ticket to special lifestyle so much as its a necessary portfolio diversification that happens to be something that satisfies some competitive juices and childhood dreams.

The new owners want to win badly because losing would be counter to everything they've succeeded in to get to this point. They want to make money but they know that making the real money comes with winning and new stadiums and PSL's and media deals. They aren't afraid of losing money, they're just afraid of losing.

From Day 1, the new generation of owners demand success in every corner of the organization. This, of course, doesn't guarantee success but it certainly creates a culture where succeeding is the only thing that matters.

Currently, Phoenix's sports ownership is stuck in the past.

The Cardinals, Suns and Diamondbacks are all owned by the old model. They are mom and pop stores. The Bidwills, Sarvers and Kendricks family business is the team they own.

They only spend money when they have to and even then its not a guarantee. Their primary objective is to maximize profits so that the current and future generations of the family tree can experience the same lavish lifestyle they do.

Alex Merulo is the only exception as owner of the Coyotes but even his group has yet to show a willingness to prioritize success on the ice over everything else.

While the rest of the sports world continues to place more and more emphasis on winning and doing whatever it takes to win, Phoenix is still stuck in an era where winning is nice but not everything.

Until that changes at the top, I wouldn't expect much more sports success than we've already gotten.

Which is to say, we better stay used to not winning.


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