Forbes' newly released NFL franchise values confirm something that you know in your head is true, no matter what your heart says: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is a genius.
His Cowboys, according to the magazine, are worth $4.2 billion, up 5 percent from 2015. The Cowboys are the most valuable American sports franchise, just as they were in 2015, and are the most valuable sports club in the world, topping Spain's Real Madrid.
The Cowboys are worth nearly double the NFL's average franchise value of $2.34 billion because of smart branding and Jones' penchant for innovating. In 2015, the team had $700 million in revenues, $300 million in operating income. The team has marketing deals with Whataburger, Nike, Dr Pepper and Ford at the complex. For some scale, the Ford family owns the Detroit Lions, who are only worth $1.65 billion.
Jones' biggest coup in 2015 and 2016 was the completion and opening of the team's massive, theme park-like practice facility and headquarters in Frisco. There are restaurants, a luxury club and other amenities at a place that won't even hold real games for any teams above the high school level.
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Jones has figured out a way to monetize everything.
When Jones bought the Cowboys from Bum Bright in 1989, the team was worth just $140 million, was about to suffer through a 1-15 season and had a dilapidated stadium in a suburb, Irving, that wasn't doing so well itself. Jones slaughtered the sacred cow, Tom Landry, the only coach the Cowboys had ever known, drafted Troy Aikman and hired Jimmy Johnson. The Cowboys won three Super Bowls between 1992 and 1995 and got the city of Arlington to kick in $325 million to help build the shrine to football currently known as AT&T Stadium.
Jones and the Cowboys appear set to sit on top of the NFL heap for years to come, as well. The difference in value between the Cowboys and the league's second most valuable team, the New England Patriots ($800 million), is equal to the difference between the Patriots and the Houston Texans, the leagues ninth most valuable.
The only threat on the horizon to the Cowboys' hegemony isn't the team's on-the-field product, according to Forbes. Instead, it's the possibility of Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke succeeding in getting the $3 billion entertainment village he wants built around the Rams proposed new stadium. If that happens, the Rams would be worth an estimated $4 billion.