The New York Times this week featured a great piece on rap artist Jay-Z's influence on the NBA's Nets team, who this year will move from New Jersey to Brooklyn.
Jay-Z, who grew up Shawn Carter in Brooklyn, owns just 0.07 percent of the Nets but is nearly the entire public face of the ownership team. His influence on the team also far outstretches his stake – he's recruited players, designed a club for the new arena, influenced the jersey colors and recently appeared on a 200-foot-tall billboard equal with the team's 80 percent owner.
The Nets are not alone in their ownership having some celebrity ties. Celebrity sports team ownership began long ago, with Bob Hope buying pieces of the Cleveland Indians and LA Rams in the 1940s and Gene Autry founding the LA/California/Anaheim Angels in 1961.
I've long wondered what makes the best owner for a sports team, and celebrity involvement is certainly part of that question. Who is the best owner for a team?
Is it a super-rich fan, like a celebrity, who personally cares about the team but can't focus on or doesn't know how to run a sports team?
It's great to have an owner who's willing to spend on free agents, but that has its drawbacks. Publicity-loving owners such as Mark Cuban can distract or overshadow a team. Pop stars don't tend to have very much experience in business operations or professional sports.
Having the money and the passion matters only if you know what to do with it.
Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, was successful enough to personally build a net worth of $1.1 billion, but his spending decisions in the NFL are a league-wide joke among fans.
Is it someone who runs the team as a business, promoting smart, new thinking to responsibly field a team with an edge?
You might have seen the movie "Moneyball" or read the book, which chronicles manager Billy Beane's attempt to work creatively within the restrictive budget of his team's owner. Owners like this are never popular with fans, but they have to exist in order for smaller market teams to survive. There just aren't enough billionaires around so that everyone can be the New York Yankees. Also, in leagues with salary caps, you need smart thinking, because net worth doesn't matter so much.
Or is a more hands-off owner who leaves the team operations and finances to the management? Just pick the right people to run the business better than you can, and let them do their job.
The Rooney family is a model for this. They've had three coaches since 1969, and two general managers since 1991, and we all know the success they've had.
The goal of any sports team should be to win, so that's how owners should be viewed as succeeding in my opinion.
What do you think makes the best owner? Leave your comments below.