Stan Kroenke has been on a roll the past 18 months as his sports teams won titles in the NFL (Los Angeles Rams), NHL (Colorado Avalanche) and NLL (Colorado Mammoth) and finished second in the EPL (Arsenal). He’s now two wins from a trophy in yet another sports league, as his Denver Nuggets lead the Miami Heat 2-1 in the NBA Finals.
Winning has been a family affair.
Stan’s son, Josh, has been an integral part of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, serving as president of the Nuggets since 2010 and adding the same title with the Avalanche three years later. Josh has served as his father’s most trusted advisor and has been a major factor in the success of KSE the last few years, according to sports consultant Marc Ganis, who has known Stan for close to 30 years.
“The Krafts have been the gold standard for team ownership,” Ganis said. “I would argue that a major part of that is because it’s actually two people in Bob and Jonathan Kraft. Now you have that with Stan and Josh Kroenke.”
The New England Patriots became a model franchise on and off the field under the leadership of both Krafts. The club won its first of six Super Bowls during the 2001 season, and a new stadium opened the following year that pushed team revenue near the top of the sport. Jonathan Kraft was only 37 during that first Super Bowl triumph but had worked alongside his father since Bob paid $172 million for the team in 1994. The franchise is now worth $5.9 billion.
Josh Kroenke, 43, played college basketball at Missouri, where he served as team captain his junior and senior years. After a stint on Wall Street, he joined the family business. Kroenke worked side-by-side with his father as they built the most valuable portfolio of sports team assets in the world, worth a combined $12.9 billion.
The next generation of team ownership has also played a major role with the Heat. Ted Arison, who founded Carnival Cruise Lines, was Miami’s majority owner when the expansion team started play in 1988. His son, Micky, took control of the Heat in 1995.
Micky’s son, Nick, attended Duke University where he served as team manager of the Blue Devils men’s basketball team for four years. Nick, 42, has worked full time for the Heat organization for 20 years—he also served as a team attendant for four seasons before that. He was promoted to CEO in 2011 after working in almost every facet of the business, including arena operations, sales and marketing, and basketball operations.
Sports team ownership has evolved from its mom-and-pop roots to become larger, more complicated entities, but it still allows the opportunity to incorporate family in important parts of the business. Jerry Buss built the Los Angeles Lakers showtime era with the help of his family, including his daughter Jeanie, who ran the Great Western Forum before taking over as president of the Lakers after her father’s death in 2013. In 2020, she was the team’s controlling owner when the team won the NBA title.
Jerry Jones turned the NFL’s business model on its head after he bought the Dallas Cowboys for $150 million in 1989. He broke boundaries with sponsorships, merchandise, stadium construction and real estate development. His three children—Stephen, Charlotte and Jerry Jr.—have been fixtures in the executive suite as the franchise value swelled to $7.64 billion—the most valuable in the world.
Joe Lacob led a group that paid $450 million for the Golden State Warriors in 2010. His sons, Kirk and Kent, have been involved in the team as it made six NBA Finals over the past decade—with four titles—helping Golden State become the NBA’s most valuable team at $7.56 billion.
Ted Leonsis built a sports empire based around Washington, D.C., sports under his Monumental Sports & Entertainment umbrella. It includes the NBA’s Wizards, NHL’s Capitals, WNBA’s Mystics and 100% ownership of regional sports network NBC Sports Washington. The Capitals and Mystics have both won titles over the past five years.
Zach Leonsis, 34, has helped his father push MSE into new areas. He heads Media & New Enterprises at MSE and was instrumental in the launch of the first team-owned direct-to-consumer streaming business. In 2021, MSE opened the country’s first in-arena sportsbook at Capital One Arena.
“He is an incredible teacher,” Zach said of Ted in a phone interview. “One of the things he’s taught me the most is about connecting the dots between seemingly disparate workflows, trends, how things all tie together and then anticipatory thinking.”
The relationship between a parent and child offers a unique opportunity in business. “We push each other probably harder than a typical executive relationship, and I think our organization is better for it,” Zach Leonsis said.
Leonsis, like Josh Kroenke and Nick Arison, has been instrumental in his family’s push into esports, including the NBA 2K league that started play in 2018. The Washington franchise won titles in 2020 and 2021. It’s an industry more aligned with the trio’s demographic than that of their AARP-eligible fathers and has helped expose the basketball brands to different audiences.
These teams all have two owners for the price of one. Adds Ganis, “It is an advantage in ownership to have different perspectives from different generations.”