For the second year in a row, the Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable sports franchise on Earth, topping Forbes' annual ranking with an estimated value of $4.2 billion. The New York Yankees, worth $3.7 billion, are next on the list, up from fourth in 2016.
Soccer clubs Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid round out the top five.
Whatever you might think of Jerry Jones' football acumen, Forbes new lists makes clear just how successful he has been. He bought a famous but tarnished franchise in 1989 and built it into a financial behemoth. Jones paid former owner Bum Bright $140 million for the Cowboys just before the team suffered through the worst season in its history, going 1-15.
That year, however, Jones drafted Troy Aikman, fired Tom Landry and hired Jimmy Johnson. Thanks to their new owner, the '90s Cowboys were off and running. Before the decade ended, they won three Super Bowls, turning around a franchise that had been losing $1 million a month.
Jones changed the game further in the '90s when he signed marketing deals with American Express, Nike and Pepsi in defiance of the NFL's revenue-sharing policy. The league sued Jones for $300 million, and Jones countersued for $700 million. Both claims were officially dropped, and Jones created a new, local revenue stream for the Cowboys.
In 2009, the Cowboys played their first game at AT&T Stadium, the $1.2 billion temple that Jones convinced the city of Arlington to pay $325 million to help build. While Arlington may not host another Super Bowl following the icy weather and temporary seating debacle that marred the 2011 game, AT&T Stadium remains a state-of-the-art facility capable of hosting events like the College Football Playoff, NBA All-Star Game and Final Four.
According to Forbes , the Cowboys operating profit runs at about $300 million per season — even though the team hasn't played in an NFC Championship Game since the 1995 season. In 2015, the team set an NFL record for revenue at $700 million, and it wasn't even a good year on the field. The Cowboys went 4-12.
In 2016, the Cowboys opened The Star in Frisco. The Cowboys' new $1.5 billion practice facility and headquarters, home to retail, restaurants and a 12,000 seat indoor stadium, already has marketing deals with Whataburger, Nike, Dr Pepper and Ford.
Thanks to new revenue streams from The Star and an improved product on the field — quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott both ranked in the top five in NFL jersey sales in 2016 — the Cowboys' hegemony at the top of the sports world and the NFL shows no signs of slowing. While 29 of the league's 32 teams made the Forbes top 50 list, the Cowboys are the only NFL team in the top five. The league's second most valuable franchise, the New England Patriots, is worth an estimated $800 million less than the Cowboys at $3.4 billion.
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