Inside The Two Billionaire Owners Going Head-To-Head In The World Series

The Phillies’ John Middleton and the Astros’ Jim Crane built their fortunes in very different ways.

HOwner John Middleton thanked superstar outfielder Bryce Harper for his eighth-inning home run at the old field in Citizens Bank Park on Sunday after the Phillies won the World Series. Fighting is the edge of victory. “I was thinking, maybe I’m giving him too little money,” said Middleton, who paid the outfielder $330 million over 13 years.

It’s not Harper that Middleton, 67, should be thankful for. This is Major League Baseball. In any other season, the Phillies would be watching the playoffs between tee times rather than chasing a third World Series title. But in this year’s labor negotiations, the league pushed to expand the playoffs, and the result was a 12-team roster, up from eight when Philadelphia last won the World Series in 2008. The change allows the 2022 Phillies to sneak into the dance with a paltry 87 wins, the fewest of any playoff team this year. Compared to the Houston Astros’ 106 regular-season victories, the Phillies’ World Series opponent is owned by billionaire Jim Crane.

The expansion of the MLB playoffs is all about the money. ESPN is reportedly spending at least $65 million for the additional playoffs under its existing TV deal, according to industry sources. The new deals between Apple and Peacock are worth a combined $115 million a year, bringing MLB’s combined media rights to more than $2 billion.

With the promise of other new revenue, such as jersey patch deals and continued growth in sponsorship sales, now is the perfect time to own a baseball team. The average MLB club value is now a record $2.07 billion, up 9 percent from last year. Forbes estimate. Based on team value, the Phillies ($2.3 billion) and Astros ($1.98 billion) are in the top half of the league at No. 8 and No. 15, respectively. Overall, MLB expects revenue to exceed $10 billion for the 2022 season.

“In my opinion, the higher the valuation, the more people will line up to buy the team,” said Martin Conway, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Sports Management. “It’s almost like art, just keep adding value regardless of what’s going on in the rest of the market.”

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That’s good news for the billionaire owners of both teams, most of whose wealth is tied to baseball. Middleton made money by revitalizing the family’s tobacco business, which he later sold, and is worth an estimated $3.4 billion. Crane started from scratch, turning his logistics business into a sports industry and amassing an estimated net worth of $1.6 billion.

billionaires will win

The growing value of Major League Baseball teams adds to the wealth of the owners of World Series contenders.

Philadelphia Phillies: John Middleton

Middleton’s wealth dates back to the 19th century. In 1856, his great-great-grandfather started a small retail tobacco shop in Philadelphia. About 100 years later, the business began producing cigarettes and in 1980 launched the popular Black & Mild cigar brand.

Middleton reportedly joined the family business in the summer of 16 philadelphia magazine, after an MBA at Amherst and Harvard, his father quickly put him on the company’s board (the other two members were his parents). Despite backlash from his father, Middleton led the acquisition of four tobacco brands from RJ Reynolds and built a profitable packaged cigar business.

This opened the door for John and his father, both obsessed with baseball, to join the Phillies ownership group in 1994. They bought a 15% stake in the club for $18 million, and John emphasized his active involvement in the club’s operations.

Following the sudden death of his father in 1998, Middleton consolidated ownership of the family business and bought his mother and sisters for $200 million in 2003. Considering Middleton turned around and sold the business to Altria for $2.9 billion, that’s quite a deal. 2007. His sister later sued him for more than $1 billion, claiming he misrepresented the company’s assets when he bought her shares. The siblings reportedly settled for $22 million in 2018. philadelphia inquirer.

Since getting out of the tobacco business, Middleton has only increased his investment in the Phillies. He eventually raised his stake to 48% and took over the club after then-chairman David Montgomery fell ill. MLB blessed him in 2016 to become the team’s official holding partner. Today, Middleton owns the Phillies along with the Buck family, whose investors purchased a portion of the team in 1981. Former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick and the Montgomery family, the former team chairman, own smaller stakes.

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Houston Astros: Jim Crane

Crane, 68, has taken a different path to success. Growing up in St. Louis, he was an avid baseball kid who sometimes caddied for Cardinals players at the local golf club and parked for customers at the team’s stadium. He pitched for Central Missouri State in the mid-1970s and held the school’s strikeout record with 18.

In 1984, a 30-year-old Crane, after completing work in insurance and freight forwarding, borrowed $10,000 from his sister and founded what would become Eagle Global Logistics in Houston. Crane took care of the details himself, and the company made money in its first month. More than 20 years later, in 2007, he sold the company to Apollo Global Management in a leveraged buyout, generating more than $300 million in revenue. A year later, Crane launched another logistics business called Crane Worldwide. Today, its total annual revenue is estimated at $1.6 billion.

Around this time, Crane made his first attempt at MLB ownership. In the handshake deal, he agreed to buy the Astros in 2008, but he backed out, angering then-owner Drayton McLean Jr. and then-baseball commissioner Bud Selig. New York Times. Klein went on to play unsuccessful games for the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers.

His persistence paid off, and in 2011 he struck a deal to acquire minority stakes in the Astros and a new regional sports network at a $680 million valuation. (His stake in the Astros is estimated at 40%.) Crane agreed to the club’s eventual move to the American League, and also received a $70 million deal discount. Major League Baseball scrutinized Crane for months as a result of an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which accused Eagle Global of racially and gender discrimination against him in the 1990s and named him personally. (The company settled for $8.5 million and later returned $6 million when an arbitrator found only 10 percent of its claims were valid.)

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When Klein was officially in control, the Astros were abysmal, losing more than 100 straight seasons. The club has been widely criticized for losing in order to accumulate the best draft picks, but if that is the team’s strategy, it has paid off. By 2014, the Astros have arguably the best farm system in baseball, which will produce stars like Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and George Springer. Crane’s regime has also completed big deals, including the acquisition of future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander in 2017. That season, the club won its first World Series.

The fairy tale twist ends in a nightmare. In 2019, sports Accusing the Astros of using cameras and other technology to steal opposing teams’ logos to give them an unfair advantage. After interviewing 68 people, including 23 Astros players, and sifting through 76,000 emails, MLB found the cheating allegations were true. The league suspended manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for a year, fined the Astros $5 million and took their first- and second-round picks in 2020 and 2021. Commissioner Rob Manfred pardoned the team owner and said in a statement that “Jim Crane was not aware of any violations of MLB rules by his club.” Crane fired Hinch and Luhnow.

“I think the baseball world wanted him to say a lot more apologetically than he actually did,” Conway said. “But on the other hand, people in Houston seem to think it’s a positive, he’s not willing to back down and stop spending or do whatever else they’re doing. The city of Houston and the fans have been behind them, maybe even more rallying around them , because they feel excluded from almost everyone in sports, baseball and the media.”

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