Growth Strategies

Who Wants to Be CFO for an NFL Team?

CFOs — if you had to choose which NFL franchise to help lead, which one would it be?
Who Wants to Be CFO for an NFL Team?

Super Bowl LVII is only a few days away, pitting the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs against each other. Each franchise has a storied history, as well as recent championship success. The Eagles won the big game in 2018 and the Chiefs in 2020. 

Furthermore, from a financial perspective, sports franchises make some of the best bets for investors. The Eagles, owned by Jeffrey Lurie, are now valued at $4.9 billion. And the Chiefs? They are valued at $3.7 billion, originally purchased in 1960 by the Lamar Hunt family. The original purchase price? Hunt bought the team for $25,000.  

We at CFO always try to look at things through the lens of the finance chief. Whether it be our 2023 outlook series, our outlook survey, or the 6 a.m. CFO series, our team is honed in on how CFOs view and determine what is valuable to them and their careers. 

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With the Super Bowl approaching, the CFO editorial team asked ourselves, “which franchises might a CFO be naturally drawn to?” Which would YOU choose, and why? 

Here are four of our contenders. And stay tuned at the conclusion where the CFO team offers our Super Bowl predictions.

(Financial stats via Forbes’ annual franchise valuations. Attendance numbers via ESPN.)

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Jacksonville_Jaguars_logo.svgThe Jacksonville Jaguars 

  • Current ownership: Shahid Khan
  • Valuation: $3.8B (28th)
  • Revenue: $471M
  • Operating income: $114M
  • 2022 attendance: 1,130,728 (27th)

Mantra: The private equity investor’s dream — buy low, sell high

What is the team’s growth potential?

The Jaguars are the only NFL team to have an exclusive, decade-long deal with the league to play at least one game a year in London. Taking this into consideration, the Jags have to be the favorite to move across the pond as a way to jumpstart interest in a potential European division. Outside of the namesake being the same as the classically-British Jaguar Land Rover, one of the NFL’s smallest market teams has entrenched itself in England as a fan favorite through heavy investment and long-term growth goals.

How do the Jags compete financially?

The NFL hasn’t hidden its ideas around a European expansion. The Jags struggle in ticket sales, have an aging stadium, and have never even been to the Super Bowl in their 20 years of existence. Despite this, they have a franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, who has a tremendous following, a sound coaching staff, and an owner in Khan who already owns London soccer club Fulham F.C. Khan is hungry to build his brand on an international scale.

What is the biggest risk?

If the plan is indeed to market or move the Jags to the U.K., it’s extremely risky. NFL Europe was a $400M disaster, and there has been some pushback from fans in the states about games moving overseas.

With the controversies stemming from the NBA’s global expansion becoming a possibility for the NFL, the slow trickle of NFL football back to Europe will be much more than the success of the Jags, but the preservation of the NFL’s brand on a global stage.

by: Adam Zaki
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New_York_Jets_logo.svgThe NY Jets

  • Current ownership: Johnson family
  • Valuation: $5.4B (7th)
  • Revenue: $519M
  • Operating income: $136M
  • Attendance: 1,251,761 (2nd)

Mantra: Perennial underperformers, but are they a value buy?

Are the Jets a valuable football franchise? 

On paper, yes.

The team is profitable, located in a wealthy and populous metropolitan area with a loyal fan base, and was second in attendance (combining home and visitor games) in 2022. The price would be high. But the buyer would have to stomach the on-field product.

Broadway Joe Namath’s win in Super Bowl III was so long ago it has attained the level of myth. Some sports franchises come with an aura of winning; the Jets come with the scars of 50-plus years of dashed dreams subsequent. Nearly 60% of an NFL team’s revenue is from TV and sponsorship deals. Much to Jets’ fans’ chagrin, losing doesn’t have a great impact on the bottom line. But at $5.6 billion (probably more in a bidding war), value investors should pass.

Can the franchise be turned around?

It doesn’t take much to stir up the hopes of mercurial Jets fans. Some solid rookie player debuts last year and a 7-10 season have caused season-ticket renewals to rise 20% for the 2023 season, despite a 12% price hike. Many CFOs face a talent shortage, but the Jets’ problem at quarterback is perennial. Trading for Aaron Rodgers and his huge salary, say most pundits, would be a mistake.

Off the field, moving out of New Jersey to return home to Queens will be much discussed over the next two years, because the Jets can opt out of their Metlife Stadium lease in 2025. Moving doesn’t dispel a team’s demons, but if the Jets don’t make the playoffs in 2023 or 2024 they will have worn out their welcome in the Garden State anyway.

The other change that’s needed? A new CFO. Their last one was promoted to chief operating officer and never replaced. 

Which team should a value investor buy instead?

Look to the west. At $3 billion, the Cincinnati Bengals, the lowest valued in the NFL, would be a steal. The Bengals are on the rise, having missed the Super Bowl by one game. The Bengals have the quarterback to get them the Lombardi Trophy, Joe Burrow, and a solid coach in Zac Taylor. The Bengals also play in Paycor Stadium, an architectural marvel, though its capacity of 65,500 keeps the franchise in the second tier of NFL teams ranked by attendance.

But good luck getting the owner to sell. Mike Brown is the son of NFL legend Paul Brown. He is unpopular with fans; among other things, they consider him too frugal. A buyer would definitely have to make capital investments, the number one being an indoor training facility. The Bengals were the home team in the Freezer Bowl of 1982.

by: Vincent Ryan

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Washington_Commanders_logo.svg

Washington Commanders 

  • Current ownership: Daniel Snyder
  • Valuation: $5.6B (6th)
  • Revenue: $544M
  • Operating income: $130M
  • Attendance: 1,084,489 (last) 

Mantra: Legacy franchise in need of new leadership

What is Washington’s potential?

The Commanders (née Redskins) are one of the most storied franchises in all of pro sports, having collected five championships over the years and with a team valuation closing in on $6 billion. Along with the championships, the team has amassed a fanbase and pop cultural connections that buoy the team’s place in fans’ hearts. Snyder, who originally acquired the team in 1999, knew this, of course. And much of his strategy over the years has been to capitalize on that fandom in a variety of ways. They are a blue chipper franchise, but without blue chipper success on the football field. 

Can the franchise regain its luster?

I happen to live within the team’s DC-Virginia-Maryland intersection, commonly known as the “DMV.” And team fandom runs deep and across generations. Sports bars are still adorned with signed posters and jerseys of Joe Gibbs, John Riggins, Joe Theismann, and Darrell Green. Sports talk radio has multiple dedicated programs to the team’s success and the lack thereof.

Of course, every franchise in the history of pro sports has had fans who have uttered, “I could run this team better than [fill in the blank]!” But with the number of missteps the team has made over the years, in terms of its fan treatment, team building, and a number of scandals, the team appears as if it could use new leadership that understands both the dynamics of pro sports ownership, but also effective growth strategy. 

A Buying Opportunity

Snyder recently stated that he has an asking price of around $7 billion for the franchise — higher than the second-highest valued franchise, the New England Patriots, who also boast of decades of recent on-field success. We are in an era where franchise acquisition is most often by way of a group of owners, there still needs to be a figurehead who becomes the face of the franchise, a la the Phoenix Suns and their purchase by Mat Ishbia.

But the bigger the figurehead, the more difficult the CFO’s job could become, trying to align business strategy with wins on the field. And the latter is no small task, as Washington has had only four winning seasons, nine different head coaches, and a carousel of high-priced talent that didn’t exactly pan out since Snyder took over. It may be time for the team to not only have new leadership but a new financial approach to re-building the franchise’s storied past into something that has a future. 

by: Andy Burt

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New_York_Giants_logo.svgThe NY Giants

  • Current ownership: John Mara, Steven Tisch
  • Valuation: $6B (4th)
  • Revenue: $584M
  • Operating income: $178M
  • Attendance: 1,243,963 (4th)

Mantra: High cost, high reward

How high is the potential?

Endless.

The Giants are a legacy NFL franchise with consistent ticket sales, a tremendous market share, and arguably the highest potential for growth on the field after the team’s performance this season. With a new front office, coaching staff, and an entirely new demeanor surrounding the team’s outlook due to the changes, the Giants have put themselves back in the conversation of one of the best-run football programs in the NFL.

Location, Location, Location

The Giants’ biggest strength has also turned into their biggest pain point. MetLife Stadium, a soulless, dreary, concrete cereal bowl, located roughly 10 miles outside of Manhattan, has been consistently ranked one of the worst NFL stadiums since its creation. Besides sharing the stadium with the Jets, the Giants have invested heavily in the surrounding area, building the Quest Diagnostics Training facility directly adjacent to the stadium. Many players live in New Jersey, and much like the New England Patriots, the Giants have really marketed themselves as the team of the tri-state area, and not just New York. 

This is largescale geographic uniqueness, and the investment in New Jersey as the home for the Giants has become a generational oversight by ownership. If the Giants were able to build a stadium in one of the areas surrounding Manhattan with lots of space and good roadway/parking infrastructure already in place (World’s Fair in Queens or Jones Beach on Long Island), the team could truly leverage the New York area for all its worth. The Giants are in an identity crisis, and this is a way to remedy it while also adding incredible value. Outside of Buffalo, this would make the Giants the first NFL team to play in the New York City area since the Jets played at Shea Stadium in 1983. 

New York City is hungry for an enclosed arena that can seat 50,000 plus. Building the Giants an enclosed or retractable roof stadium in the Greater New York area would catapult them towards the ten-figure mark in valuation in the future, something no NFL team has been able to achieve as of yet. 

A Pipe Dream? Probably. 

The Giants will likely never sell. Despite contention between ownership, both the Mara and Tisch families have ingrained the Giants into their bloodlines. Both owners received the team from their fathers, and it is expected that they will do the same for their families when it comes time.

With the Jets making efforts to leave New Jersey more than the Giants, it’s more likely that they will be the ones to eventually make a New York homecoming with new stadiums somewhere in the Greater area surrounding New York City. Both teams, although required to give the state of New Jersey 12 months notice, have the option to leave Metlife in 2025.

With the announcement of the New York Yankees ownership group building NYCFC a new stadium near Citi Field, and the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum being in the running for a proposed casino, there is momentum in creating more spaces for professional sports competition in the Queens/Long Island area. Whether or not that means my dreams of the Giants coming to Long Island can happen, is a waiting game at best. 

by: Adam Zaki

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Since we know this is what you’ve come for, here are our Super Bowl predictions:

Adam Zaki: Chiefs 38, Eagles 30

Vincent Ryan: Eagles 24, Chiefs 20

Andy Burt: Eagles 17, Chiefs 13

Lauren Muskett: Chiefs 27, Eagles 24