In January 1994, Boston business magnate and football fan Robert Kraft bought a struggling NFL franchise and turned it into one of the greatest dynasties the sport has ever seen. Kraft, who already owned the team’s stadium, invested a then-record $172 million to buy the New England Patriots from James Orthwein Busch.
The deal did not only turn out great for the team and the region, which kept its pro football franchise instead of seeing it leave to become the St. Louis Stallions, it also turned out well for Kraft: his investment has paid considerable dividends in the last 20+ years. As the Patriots became more successful on the field, they did the same off it – to a point where the franchise has grown into one of the most valuable in all of sports.
According to Forbes Magazine, the Patriots are currently worth $3.2 billion, or, putting inflation into consideration, more than 11 times what Kraft paid for the team in 1994.
New England is the most successful team of the 21st century, so it is not surprising to see its popularity and consequently value rise steadily over the last two decades. The team’s success also coincides with the NFL’s general rise in popularity as well as the rise of social media and the internet. All those factors on and off the field, inside and outside the NFL, have contributed to the team’s ever growing value.
The Patriots’ $3.2 billion make the franchise the sixth most valuable sports team in the world and number two in the NFL behind only the Dallas Cowboys (worth $4.0 billion), who took the number one overall spot on this year's 50-deep list from soccer club Real Madrid. The Patriots and Cowboys are joined in the top ten by three other NFC teams: the Washington Redskins (8th, $2.85 billion), the New York Giants (9th, $2.8 billion) and the San Francisco 49ers (t-10th, $2.7 billion).
Overall, the top ten most valuable sports franchises in the world look as follows, with the rest of the NFL listed below:
1. Dallas Cowboys: $4.0 billion
2. Real Madrid: $3.65 billion
3. FC Barcelona: $3.55 billion
4. New York Yankees: $3.4 billion
5. Manchester United: $3.32 billion
6. New England Patriots: $3.2 billion
7. New York Knicks: $3.0 billion
8. Washington Redskins: $2.85 billion
9. New York Giants: $2.8 billion
t-10. Los Angeles Lakers: $2.7 billion
t-10. San Francisco 49ers: $2.7 billion
13. New York Jets: $2.6 billion
14. Houston Texans: $2.5 billion
16. Chicago Bears: $2.45 billion
17. Philadelphia Eagles: $2.4 billion
25. Green Bay Packers: $1.95 billion
26. Denver Broncos: $1.94 billion
27. Baltimore Ravens: $1.93 billion
t-29. Pittsburgh Steelers: $1.9 billion
31. Indianapolis Colts: $1.88 billion
32. Seattle Seahawks: $1.87 billion
33. Miami Dolphins: $1.85 billion
35. Atlanta Falcons: $1.67 billion
39. Minnesota Vikings: $1.59 billion
40. Carolina Panthers: $1.56 billion
42. Arizona Cardinals: $1.54 billion
43. Kansas City Chiefs: $1.53 billion
44. San Diego Chargers: $1.525 billion
45. New Orleans Saints: $1.515 billion
46. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $1.51 billion
47. Cleveland Browns: $1.5 billion
49. Tennessee Titans: $1.49 billion
50. Jacksonville Jaguars: $1.48 billion
That 27 of the 50 most valuable sports franchises are NFL teams speaks for itself. It further shows how the league is the biggest in the world as only five of the NFL's 32 teams did not make the list.
Two other New England franchises are on the list, by the way. The Boston Red Sox rank 18th ($ 2.3 billion) and the Boston Celtics 22nd ($2.1 billion).