Is the purchase of Liverpool FC the most expensive purchase of a sports franchise?

Two American businessmen George Gillett and Tom Hicks just bought Liverpool, the most successful franchise in the history of English football, for $343 million.

Tom in Florida wrote us to ask whether this is the most expensive sports transaction.

As far as we can tell, the recent takeover of Manchester United by another American businessman, Malcolm Glazer, dwarfs all such deals. Glazer bought United through a complicated series of stock acquisitions, but overall the price was estimated as $1.55 billion. The Liverpool purchase is more in line with Roman Abramovich’s acquisition of London club Chelsea, which was valued at $233 million.

In American sports, the Redskins cost Dan Snyder more than $750 million in 1999. The Houston Texans were nearly as expensive. Robert McNair bought them the same year for $700 million. Obviously, purchase price does not correspond to performance on the field.

In baseball, we think that Fred Wilpon’s $391 million purchase of the Mets in 2002 was the largest ever while Robert Sarver’s 2004 acquisition of the Phoenix Suns for $401 million was the NBA big deal. The biggest transaction in hockey history seems to be the $234 million that Bell Globemedia paid for a stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs three years ago.

Forbes estimates the total value of the franchises by sport. We’ve put the lists together for the master top-ten most valuable sports franchises. The NFL dominates:

$ millions
1423 Washington Redskins
1373 Manchester United
1176 New England Patriots
1173 Dallas Cowboys
1043 Houston Texans
1026 New York Yankees
1024 Philadelphia Eagles
1012 Real Madrid
975 Denver Broncos
970 Cleveland Browns

The top NBA franchise the Knicks is worth about $543 million, a little more than Chelsea, the 7th richest soccer team. The Toronto Maple Leafs, the fat cats of the NHL are worth about $332 million.

Here are the lists for

Thanks for the question.

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