Report: New ownership rules aid family-operated clubs

The NFL has revised ownership rules with an eye toward making it easier for the family-owned franchises to execute succession plans without nearly losing control of their organizations as nearly happened to the Rooneys and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Sports Business Journal reported this morning that the league voted two weeks ago at the fall meeting in Boston to ease requirements for a controlling owner, something that could greatly benefit someone like Michael McCaskey with the Chicago Bears.

Previously, a controlling owner had to own at least 20 percent of the club with family members owning at least another 10 percent. In the new format, a single controlling owner now needs only a 10 percent share of the franchise with other family members owning at least 20 percent to get to the same number of 30 percent. Prior to 2004, a controlling owner had to have at least 30 percent, a figure that is more challenging with the rising values of franchises.

Forbes estimated the value of the Bears at $1.082 billion in September. So, the difference in a 10 percent stake in the team is in the range of $100 million. This will greatly aid family-owned teams looking to keep the family business in tact. Dallas, New England and New Orleans were cited as other family-operated organizations with succession plans that could be impacted.

“Several years ago, Mike McCaskey, son of 86-year-old Chicago Bears owner Virginia McCaskey approached the league about relaxing its ownership requirements,’’ the report states. “The league rebuffed him at the time, but at least on paper, a path to ownership now would be easier for him.”

The new rule applies only to current owners and cannot be enacted unless a succession plan filed with the league is in place. New owners would be subject to the 20/10 rule for their first decade in the league, the report said.

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