The NFL reportedly keeps a list of billionaires called 'Tiger cubs' who could be future team owners, and they are different from traditional owners

  • The NFL reportedly maintains close ties with billionaires who it believes would be good team owners, for whenever a team becomes available. 
  • When the Carolina Panthers were sold this year, the eventual new owner, David Tepper, was widely seen as the league's first choice. 
  • The NFL even keeps a list of potential owners, who are referred to as "Tiger cubs." 

Jon Wertheim has an interesting piece up in Sports Illustrated about the family ownership model in the NFL, which contains an interesting nugget about the league's business practices and how carefully the league manages, or perhaps micro-manages, the sale of teams. 

"A source with firsthand knowledge of the NFL tells SI that in part to combat 'the Beverly Hillbillies scenario,' the NFL keeps close ties with a group of billionaires, who could—and would—potentially buy a team," Wertheim wrote. 

"Steeped in finance backgrounds, they would, presumably, run teams with professionalism, emotional detachment, and sophistication, unencumbered by family drama and melodrama. They would buy a team to diversify existing wealth rather than to create new wealth. According to the source, the league’s thinking goes like this: The 32 NFL franchises should be run like the multibillion-dollar assets they are; not like multimillion-dollar assets they were."

RELATED: NFL owners who became billionaires

NFL owners who became billionaires
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NFL owners who became billionaires

Dan Snyder: Washington Redskins

$1.1 billion(Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Denise DeBartolo York: San Francisco 49ers

$1.1 billion

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)

Jeffrey Lurie: Philadelphia Eagles

$1.1 billion

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Alex Spanos: San Diego Chargers

$1.1 billion

(Photo by Getty Images)

William Clay Ford Sr.: Detroit Lions

$1.1 billion

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Bud Adams: Tennessee Titans

$1.2 billion

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Tom Benson: New Orleans Saints

$1.2 billion

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Arthur Blank: Atlanta Falcons

$1.5 billion

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Jim Irsay: Indianapolis Colts

$1.5 billion

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Steve Bisciotti: Baltimore Ravens

$1.6 billion

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Robert McNair: Houston Texans

$1.8 billion

(Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Robert Kraft: New England Patriots

$2.3 billion

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Shahid Khan: Jacksonville Jaguars

$2.5 billion

(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

Jerry Jones: Dallas Cowboys

$2.7 billion

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Malcolm Glazer: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

$3.6 billion

(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon SMI/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images)

Stan Kroenke: Los Angeles Rams

$4 billion

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Stephen Ross: Miami Dolphins

$4.4 billion

(Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Paul Allen: Seattle Seahawks

$15 billion

(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)


This report meshes with details reported about the most recent sale of an NFL team when the Carolina Panthers were sold to billionaire David Tepper, whom the league reportedly heavily preferred to purchase the team.

Wertheim went on to write, "Inside NFL headquarters, the names on the list of potential owners are referred to as 'Tiger cubs.' Roger Goodell’s brother, Bill, was a longtime general counsel at Tiger Management, a successful New York hedge fund, where his colleagues included men with the means and interest to own an NFL team." 

While it is understandable that the league would want to be scrupulous when it comes to who it lets into its exclusive club, it is worth asking whether this arrangement could propagate groupthink among NFL leadership, which in turn could potentially explain some of the league's recent struggles and controversies. 

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