When David Tepper added the Carolina Panthers to his collection of prized possessions, right alongside those veiny brass balls, earlier this month, he became the first hedge fund manager to own an NFL franchise. (We are not counting Jed York, who spent all of a year at Guggenheim Partners before racing back to the family business, which was and is owning the San Francisco 49ers.) In this (and only this) way, America’s most popular brain-injury merchants are way behind the other sports leagues, which are littered with alternative investment sorts seeking to impose their data-driven quantitative ways on their teams. At least four baseball teams were bought with alts riches, including Guggenheim’s Dodgers, and there’d be at leastone other if a certain less-than-beloved family of Long Island real-estate moguls and Bernie Madoff victims would just step aside. Likewise five NHL teams and at least seven NBA teams, including the venture capitalist driving all of the joy from the game and the veritable who’s who of the private equity industry that owns the Celtics. Hell, even the English Premier League and Italy’s Serie A have more American alternative investors calling the shots than does the NFL.
As with so much of that league, however, Roger Goodell wants to change this. And he’s got a plan. Every time one of the fossils who still own a team founded by their father or grandfather croaks without having made appropriate succession and tax-planning decisions, he’ll just start going down the list of people running hedge funds who used to work with his brother. That way, he can avoid an ugly Miami Marlins situation and make the NFL look more like America, which is to say, run by hedge fund people.
The NFL keeps close ties with a group of billionaires, who could—and would—potentially buy a team. Steeped in finance backgrounds, they would, presumably, run teams with professionalism, emotional detachment and sophistication, unencumbered by family drama and melodrama. They would buy a team to diversify existing wealth rather than to create new wealth…. Inside NFL headquarters, the names on the list of potential owners are referred to as “Tiger cubs.” Roger Goodell’s brother, Bill, was a longtime general counsel at Tiger Management, a successful New York hedge fund, where his colleagues included men with the means and interest to own an NFL team. It has not gone unnoticed that the NBA has made a recent practice of seeing to it that when longtime owners are ready (or forced) to sell—Herb Kohl in Milwaukee, Donald Sterling with the Clippers—the buyers have been billionaires from out of state who made their fortunes outside of sports.