Bruce Murphy
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Billionaire Sports Owners Get Richer

Report shows 64 billionaire owners gained $99 billion during pandemic, helped by billions in tax subsidies.

By - Feb 3rd, 2021 06:01 am
Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

Cash. (CC0 Creative Commons).

The report is entitled “Pandemic Super Bowl 2021: Billionaires Win, We Lose.”

Timed for release just before the biggest sports event of the year, the report is by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Americans for Tax Fairness, and its findings are intended to show the manifest unfairness of pro sports. To wit:

  • “Sixty-four billionaires, owners of 68 professional sports teams, have seen their wealth increase by over $98.5 billion, or 30 percent, over the last 10 months, even as millions of fans have fallen ill, lost jobs, neared eviction, gone hungry and died due to the coronavirus.
  • “The $98.5 billion wealth gain by 64 sports franchise billionaires since March 2020 could pay for a stimulus check of $1,400 for over 70 million Americans—almost half of the roughly 150 million people who will be eligible under the pandemic relief plan proposed by President Biden
  • “These billionaire owners include the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs’ Hunt family, worth $6.3 billion, and the NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Glazer family, worth $1.7 billion.
  • “The 64 billionaire sports barons had a combined wealth of $426 billion on January 29, 2021, up from $325 billion on March 18, 2020, roughly the start of the pandemic lockdowns…
  • “Over the past several decades, according to data maintained by Field of Schemes, 28 pro sports teams owned by 26 billionaires have received $9 billion in taxpayer subsidies. These 26 billionaires have seen their wealth increase over $45 billion since March 2020.”

Included among the 64 billionaire owners of NFL, NBA, MLB and (American) NHL teams are the three owners of the Milwaukee Bucks: Wes Edens, Marc Lasry and James Dinan, though the latter two are among exceptions who actually lost money during the last 10 months. Dinan lost $209 million and Lasry $24 million, probably due to other holdings that did poorly during the period. Edens, meanwhile, saw his wealth increase by $36 million during this period.

Remarkably most of the billionaire sports owners saw their net worth jump even as “thousands of low-paid stadium and arena workers lost their jobs or were furloughed as sports seasons were cancelled and curtailed,” the report notes.

The one great exception among pro sports teams was singled out by the report: “One Team Definitively NOT Owned by A Billionaire. The Green Bay Packers, who lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC championship, are owned by the citizens of Green Bay, the only professional franchise to be collectively owned by its fans.”

The $9 billion figure for the total tax subsidy includes only 28 of the 68 sports, perhaps because the older subsidies to pro sports teams have not been compiled by the website Field of Schemes, which has been around since 1998. The total subsidy for all pro sports teams is probably at least double the $9 billion figure. And while the website is a great resource, its estimate of the total subsidy of the Milwaukee Bucks of $550 million is low. Urban Milwaukee has estimated it will cost taxpayers at least $800 million.

The report does not include the Milwaukee Brewers because owner Mark Attanasio is not a billionaire. His net worth is estimated at $700 million. Much of the subsidy for the Brewers stadium, whose total cost to taxpayers was in excess of $1 billion, has benefitted Attanasio, who purchased the team in 2004.

The increase in wealth for billionaire sports-team owners “is just part of the dominance of a national dynasty of 661 U.S. billionaires,” the report notes, “whose wealth has grown by $1.18 trillion, or 40 percent, during the pandemic, climbing from $2.9 trillion on March 18, 2020, to $4.13 trillion, as of January 29, 2021.”

“The surging stock market and lock-down economy has been a boon to tech monopolies and helped created multiple U.S. ‘centi-billionaires,'” the report documents. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates “were each worth more than $100 billion on January 29, 2021.”

Even as the super wealthy got wealthier during the pandemic, average Americans were suffering, the report notes. “Almost 74 million lost work between Mar. 21 and Jan. 2, 2021… 12 million workers have likely lost employer-sponsored health insurance.” And “Some 24 million adults reported between Jan. 6-18 that their household had not had enough food in the past week.”

The report recommends four measures to restore tax fairness and reduce the wealth gap: (1)Treat income generated from wealth like income from wages; (2) Institute some form of a wealth tax; (3) Restore a robust estate tax; and (4) Increase the corporate tax rate.

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