Millionaires stand out forward of NFL groups
Prior to the Tennessee Titans’ home win over the New York Giants on September 11, the NFL team owner Amy Adams Strunk spent approximately two hours outside the Nashville Nissan stadium. And he heard “Damn, it’s her!” from a young woman who screamed and approached to ask for pictures.
The fans, according to Adams Strunk, are a favorite part of owning the team founded by her late father, Bud Adams, and in which she has been a controlling shareholder since 2015. “Our fans, to me, are not a statistic,” she says. . The 66-year-old Adams Strunk is estimated to be worth $1.6 billion from her Titans shares and is an example of the growing number of women owning NFL (National Football League) teams. , the American Football League of the United States.
18 of the league’s 32 franchises are at least partially female-owned, and 10 have women as majority or co-owners. Most of them inherited the teams from their fathers, brothers or husbands. Or, how Kim Pegula, owner of Buffalo Billand Dee Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Browns, bought their shares together with their companions.
But there are signs of change: recently, Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments, bought a 5.5% stake in the Denver Broncos for $245 million as part of the Walton conglomerate. Carrie Walton Penner, granddaughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, also approached the team, buying a 30% stake.
“Half of our fans are women”, says Adams Strunk, who is known as “mother” by Titans fans. “Although we’ve never played football, that doesn’t mean we don’t know the game. And we have specific perspectives for capturing women that we can bring to the business table.”
While some women who have inherited NFL teams are not close to the daily lives of those teams, Adams Strunk not only manages the Titans, but has also delivered a surprising comeback. Since 2016, the team has had six winning seasons. More importantly, she helped bring the NFL draft to Nashville three years ago and has high hopes for the city to host the Super Bowl.
This is something your father could not have foreseen. But Adams, who died in 2013 at age 90, was a professional football legend. The American businessman built his fortune in oil, was instrumental in the formation of the American Football League and founded the Titans, originally known as the Houston Oilers, with just $25,000. In 1997, when he couldn’t raise funds to replace the then old arena, he relocated the team to Nashville in his new stadium that seats 69,000 people.
“It was a game-changer for this city,” recalls Spyridon, CEO of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. “It surprised the entire sports world and Nashville came to believe in itself a little more.”
But the death of But Adams left a leadership conflict in the Titans as the team’s losses piled up. The team was split between his two daughters, Adams Strunk and Susie Adams Smith, and the wife and children of their brother, Kenneth Adams III – who died at age 29 in 1987.
After a family feud – which resulted in Adams Strunk’s brother-in-law being appointed CEO – she and her nephews fought for control of the team in 2015. “It was a difficult decision, but my father’s legacy was very important to me and for the boys”.
Adams Strunk grew up in football, but their father never wanted his daughters to work on the team. She had spent years owning some of her family’s car dealerships and oil interests, as well as raising horses. The businesswoman still has a few dozen of them on her family’s Texas ranch, along with several rescue dogs. “I never thought – never really – that I would be managing a football team.”
After she took control of the Titans, she worked closely with her nephew, Kenneth Adams IV, who had worked on the team under his grandfather’s leadership since 2007, as well as Steve Underwood, whom she brought back from retirement as the most key executive of the team. Kenneth Adams, who is 38 years old and is a member of the Titans’ board, says that having his aunt and other female owners lead NFL teams makes a difference: “I think it’s good for the NFL and we need it. It was something that had been needed for a long time.”
Adams Strunk brought in a new general manager, Jon Robinson, who was honest about the team’s problems on the field, and spent money on new infrastructure (including a new in-house training facility) and new uniforms. “When you know you need to fix something, you want someone telling you the most honest truth,” she says. “Nothing will be solved if you don’t know what needs to be done”.
A willingness to spend money set Adams Strunk apart from his tight-fisted father. While she can be tough when she’s solving problems, former team player Jevon Kearse reveals that it’s her warm manner that makes her a different owner. “She was one of the first people to come up to me and give me a hug,” he says. “Some of the owners are involved for the money. She brings a little more love.”
Adams Strunk helped bring the NFL draft to Nashville.
And all this has had an impact. The team’s valuation has more than doubled in value since 2015, from US$1.5 billion (R$7.7 billion) to US$3.5 billion (R$17.9 billion), while revenue reached US$481. million (R$ 2.4 billion), according to Forbes estimates. Despite that, with the average NFL team now worth $4.5 billion and the Dallas Cowboys hitting a record $8 billion this year, the Titans are still ranked 27th (out of 32) on the NFL’s Most Valuable Franchise list.
Adams Strunk attributes his success to a lack of prior knowledge of how to manage a team. “Just because something has been one way doesn’t mean it’s the right way,” he says, adding that sometimes it’s easier to bring in new ideas from the outside. “We talk a lot about being a 60-year-old startup,” says the team’s CEO, Burke Nihill, who took over two years ago. “Amy encouraged us to challenge everything.”
This is a problem that bothered his father: a new stadium. While it is expected to cost more than $2 billion (R$10.2 billion) and has yet to be approved by the city, Forbes has estimated that this could value the Titans at up to $300 million (R$1.5 billion). To pay for their share of the stadium — the team’s owners and the NFL loan must cover at least $700 million in costs — the family will sell some of their other assets. Adams Strunk believes that a new stadium, which would be fully covered, could host not only the Titans, but also concerts and that big game with commercials worth $7 million.
Super Bowl aside, Adams Strunk thinks his father would be a fan of her work. “If he were looking down right now, he would be very proud.”
Moving the Game Goals
Women have owned NFL teams for over 70 years, and it started with Violet Bidwill, who inherited the Cardinals in 1947 from her late husband. As a result, Forbes found at least 29 women with NFL stocks, a record number that is nearly double from a decade ago. Many of them, including Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk, already lead or help lead teams. Others should gain more visibility in the future.
Carlie, Casey and Kalen, daughters of Indianapolis Colts Jim Irsay, already regularly attend NFL owners’ meetings – and became controlling owners in 2014 after their father’s temporary suspension, who pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges. And recently suspended Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross reportedly has plans to hand over control of the team to his daughter, Jennifer Ross. “There’s a next generation of female owners already on the front lines,” says Marc Ganis, president of consulting firm Sportscorp.
Below are nine women, plus Adams Strunk, who currently own NFL teams.
Jody Allen | Seattle Seahawks
The sister of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (who died in 2018) is the sole fund manager that owns the Seahawks and is chairman of the team. Proceeds from any team sales will go to charity. Allen, 63, said the team is not currently for sale and his focus is on winning.
Gayle Benson | New Orleans Saints
The widow of former New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, who removed his children from his will before he passed away, inherited the team in 2018. She’s not just a billionaire [com fortuna estimada em US$ 4,7 bilhões (R$ 24,16 bilhões)], is also the owner of the NBA New Orleans Pelicans team, and became the only female owner of two major sports teams. One of the NFL’s most influential team owners, Benson, 75, also sits on the NFL’s Audit, Business and Hall of Fame committees.
Sheila Ford Hamp | Detroit Lions
Ford President Bill Ford’s sister gained control of the team from her mother, Martha Firestone Ford, in 2020. During her first season leading the Lions, she implemented a program to improve organizational and corporate culture. Ford Hamp, 71, also worked to increase diversity — the Lions now have many of the NFL’s black general managers — and earned respect for supporting player and activist Colin Kaepernick.
Dee Haslam | Cleveland Browns
She and her husband Jimmy have been the majority owners of the Browns since 2012. In addition to being a member of the NFL’s board of conduct and social justice, Haslam, 68, has called for greater diversity in the teams’ operations. After quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended and fined $5 million in a settlement with the NFL that concluded the investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, the Haslams announced they would invest $1 million (R$ 5.14 million) in education about sexual misconduct.
Virginia Halas McCaskey | Chicago Bears
The eldest daughter of former player Gerge Halas, nicknamed “Papa Bear” and founder of the Chicago Bears, she inherited the team after her father’s death in 1983, becoming the longest-running owner in the NFL – at age 99. Today, she is secretary to the Bears’ board of directors and an advisor to her son George, who is the team’s president and representative at NFL owners’ meetings.
Janice McNair | houston texans
Her late husband Bob brought football back to Houston in 2002. She inherited the team in 2018 and now, aged 85 and with a fortune of $5 billion, she oversees the franchise. as co-founder and chief executive.
Kim Pegula | Buffalo Bills
Pegula and her husband, Terry, purchased the Bills in 2014. She has overseen the day-to-day operations of the team since then and was named president in 2018, making her the first woman to hold that role in both the NFL and NHL. National Hockey League), as the Pegulas also own the Buffalo Sabers). An advocate for diversity in football leadership positions, Pegula, 53, is on the NFL’s diversity committee.
Tanya Snyder | Washington Commanders
As the wife of Washington Commanders co-owner Dan Snyder, she remained in charge of the team in 2021 amid investigations into team misconduct. A breast cancer survivor, she helped launch the NFL’s Think Pink initiative in 1999.
Denise DeBartolo York | San Francisco 49ers
York gained control of the 49ers in 2001 after his brother, Edward Debartolo Jr., was suspended from the NFL a year earlier. A billionaire since 2015 — with an estimated fortune of $5.1 billion (R$ 26.21 billion), she is the richest of all the controlling owners in the NFL. York and her husband, John, are co-presidents of the 49ers, while their eldest son, Jed, is the team’s CEO.