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"George will be remembered as one of the most influential and renowned owners of a franchise in sports history. He leaves a legacy of winning and an unwavering passion for success."
-- Former Yankees player and manager Lou Piniella
Among the tributes to George Steinbrenner this week, many friends and foes commented on his strength as an owner.
But where does he rank among his contemporaries?
ESPN Stats & Information provided background on 10 of the most successful U.S. sports team owners, and we ranked them against each other based on how long they have owned the franchise, how many titles they have won and the percentage of titles they've won in their time as owners.
For a different perspective, check out Page 2's slightly more whimsical Top 10.
Purchased in 1979. Jerry Buss was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2010 for his accomplishments as the Lakers' owner. What did he do? He took an already successful franchise that had won six titles in its first 24 years and built a powerhouse. The Lakers drafted Magic Johnson and won the NBA championship during Buss' first season as owner. Overall, the Lakers have won 10 NBA titles in 16 trips to the NBA Finals and made the postseason in 29 of 31 seasons since he bought the team. Buss also owned the L.A. Sparks from 1996-2006 and won back-to-back titles with them in 2001 and 2002. The Lakers are currently the most valuable NBA franchise according to Forbes magazine.
Founded in 1984. Hendrick Motorsports has won nine NASCAR Sprint Cup titles (including the past four with driver Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 car), three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series titles and one NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. Hendrick cars have won the Daytona 500 six times. He also owns more than 60 dealerships nationwide in his Hendrick Automotive Group.
Purchased in 1973. When George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees from CBS, the team had already won 20 championships but hadn't won a World Series in a decade. Since 1973, the Yankees have the highest win percentage (.566), most World Series titles (7) and most division titles (16) of any MLB franchise. According to Forbes.com, Yankee Global Enterprises, which includes Steinbrenner's stake in the team, the YES Network and Yankees-related hospitality businesses, have a combined equity value of $3.4 billion, a 33,900 percent cumulative return from his initial investment.
Purchased in 1925. The Giants have the third-most wins of any franchise in NFL history (626). They have won four NFL titles and three Super Bowl titles (one in each of the past three decades). On Feb. 3, 2008, the Giants engineered one of the greatest upsets in NFL history when they came from behind to defeat the then-undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Tim Mara, whose $500 investment has turned into a $1.2 billion franchise, and Wellington Mara are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Purchased in 1933. On the field, the Steelers have won a record six Super Bowls in seven appearances and made the postseason 25 times. Off the gridiron in 2003, Dan Rooney led a committee interested in increasing diversity in the coaching ranks. The resulting "Rooney Rule" requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate when filling a head-coaching position. Team founder Art Rooney and Dan Rooney are both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Purchased in 1993. While spending is the norm for teams in search of an NBA title, Peter Holt has been fiscally responsible and dominant on the court. Holt's Spurs have had just one losing season since 1993, and that resulted in them landing Tim Duncan as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. Two years later, San Antonio won the first of four NBA titles in a nine-year span. The Spurs have made the playoffs in 16 of his 17 seasons as owner.
Purchased in 1982. When Michael Ilitch bought his historic hometown team -- one of the NHL's "Original Six" -- the Red Wings had not won a Stanley Cup in 27 seasons. In the 27 campaigns since, the team has been in the postseason 24 times and added four championships to the seven it won between 1936 and 1955. The Red Wings are the fourth-most valuable NHL franchise at $337 million, according to Forbes magazine. The family has also owned the Detroit Tigers since 1992 and has taken them to one World Series appearance, a five-game loss to St. Louis in 2006
Purchased in 1966. While the Raiders aren't among the current elite franchises in the NFL, they once were. From 1967 to 1985, the Raiders missed the playoffs just four times. During that span, Davis and the Raiders advanced to 11 conference championship games and won three Super Bowls. Prior to buying the team, he was the AFL coach of the year in 1963. As AFL commissioner, he helped force the merger with the NFL in 1966. As owner, his battles with the league included moving the Raiders to Los Angeles and back to Oakland. Davis closely controls decisions about players and coaches, at one point taking on many players with past troubles and in recent years clashing with those who disagree with his football philosophy. He's a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Purchased in 1989. The Cowboys had not won a championship in 12 seasons when Jerry Jones took over, and the woes continued in his first year when the team finished 1-15. Three seasons later, they won the first of three Super Bowls in a four-year span. During the 1990s, the Cowboys recorded seven 10-win seasons, including six straight from '91 to '96. Jones is known for his hands-on style with players and coaches and for appearing on the sidelines in close games. The Cowboys are the most valuable franchise in the United States at $1.65 billion and second worldwide only to Manchester United. Last season, Jones completed the $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium project that is 3 million square feet in size, has a retractable roof and can have a capacity crowd for a football game of more than 100,000 fans.
Purchased in 1994. In 16 seasons with Robert Kraft as owner, the Patriots have made the postseason 11 times and have been to five Super Bowls, winning three championships. The Pats are currently riding a streak of seven 10-win seasons and have 11 overall since 1994. In 2007, the Patriots became the first team in NFL history to complete a perfect 16-0 regular season and the first team to win 18 straight games in one season (including playoffs). In 2005, Forbes magazine valued the Patriots at $1 billion, making them the fourth NFL team to reach that mark.
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