The Chicago Bears are one of the oldest teams in the National Football League, joining the NFL when it first launched in 1920. The franchise has been owned by one family that entire time, but one of the most storied teams in football could soon be up for sale.
George Halas paid $100 for the team in 1921, acquiring it from the Staley Starch Company and relocating the franchise to Chicago. The Pro Football Hall of Famer, an eight-time NFL champion and two-time Coach of the Year, gave the team to his daughter Virginia Halas McCaskey upon his death in 1983.
McCaskey has served as the club’s principal owner ever since, operating with the assistance of an eight-member board of directors that includes five members of the McCaskey family.
After a century of being owned by one family, though, the Bears could be the next NFL team put up for sale.
According to Jim O’Donnell of the Daily Herald, there is internal strife within the family regarding the future of the team, with many pushing for the franchise to be sold.
There have been rumors in recent years about the Bears potentially being put up for sale, but McCaskey has refused. She told The Athletic in 2016 that the franchise would remain with the family, “until the second coming.” But increasing pressure might
But there seems to be increasing pressure within the family to sell the team, cashing out in a move that could be beneficial for all parties.
What are the Chicago Bears worth?
While there is plenty of debate about which NFL team will be next to hit the market, many focused on the Washington Football Team. But Daniel Snyder, who is still under investigation for the franchise’s toxic culture, recently bought out the minority stakes in the franchise and refuses to sell.
The Carolina Panthers were the last purchased NFL team, with billionaire David Tepper spending a record $2.275 billion to buy the franchise in 2018. The cost for buying an NFL team has increased significantly in recent years, with Tepper making the market even more lucrative for sellers.
- 2010: Stan Kroenke purchases St. Louis Rams for $700 million (valuation price)
- 2012: Shad Khan buys Jacksonville Jaguars for $770 million
- 2012: Jimmy Haslam acquires Cleveland Browns for $1 billion
- 2014: Terry & Kim Pegula purchase Buffalo Bills for $1.4 billion
If the Bears are put up for sale, the estimated purchasing price would blow the previous figures out of the water. Tepper spent $2.275 billion to buy a team located in Charlotte, the 22nd largest media market in the United States. By comparison, Chicago is the third-largest market with more than double the audience in Charlotte.
Forbes recently estimated the Chicago Bears’ value at $3.525 billion, making it the seventh-most valuable team in the NFL. While the franchise only generates an estimated $477 million in revenue, the opportunities Chicago offers make it an extremely valuable location for an NFL franchise.
If the Bears are put up for sale, the negotiations will begin at $3 billion and the price will only go up from there. The question would then become what billionaire lands the club.
Who will buy the Chicago Bears?
There will be no shortage of suitors interested in buying the Chicago Bears. While the NFL lost an estimated $4 billion in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it also signed new TV contracts worth more than $100 billion total and new revenue sources are coming.
If the McCaskeys moved forward with a plan to sell, they would have plenty of outside bidders to choose from and a minority stakeholder who might want the team.
The founder and retired CEO of Aon Corporation, Pat Ryan’s net worth sits at an estimated $3.5 billion. The 84-year-old was born in Wisconsin but attended Northwestern University. He has served as a member on Northwestern’s board of trustees for 37 years, is in their athletics Hall of Fame and the football stadium was named in his honor.
Ryan is already a minority stakeholder (19.7 percent) in the Bears and has the right of first refusal, per O’Donnell. If the Bears are put up for sale, Ryan must be given a chance to purchase any stock that is put up for bid. He is widely considered the favorite to purchase the team, if they become available.
It’s no secret that Jeff Bezos wants to own an NFL team. Before Snyder purchased the minority stocks in the WFT, Bezos was interested in acquiring the club.
With an estimated net worth of $187 billion, the founder and CEO of Amazon would have little trouble winning a bidding war for the Chicago Bears. He might also be the NFL’s preferred candidate, with his ability to eventually build a new stadium to replace Soldier Field.
Neil Bluhm, a real estate and casino magnate, has an estimated net worth of $5.5 billion. The 83-year-old grew up in Chicago attending Northwestern University and he currently owns multiple properties in the region. He is another potential owner who could lead the push to replace Soldier Field.