HOUSTON (AP) — Robert "Bob" McNair, billionaire founder and owner of the Houston Texans, has died. He was 81.
One of the NFL's most influential owners, McNair had battled both leukemia and squamous cell carcinoma in recent years before dying in Houston on Friday. The team did not immediately release a cause of death, but says he died peacefully with his wife Janice and his family by his side.
When Houston lost the Oilers to Tennessee after the 1996 season, McNair made it his mission to return the NFL to the city. He formed Houston NFL Holdings in 1998, and on Oct. 6, 1999 he was awarded the 32nd NFL franchise.
The Texans began play in 2002. After several difficult building years as an expansion team, they won their first AFC South title and first playoff berth in 2011. They also won the division title a year later when they went a franchise-best 12-4. Both years they lost in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair
Houston Texans NFL expansion franchise owner Bob McNair makes a point
during a news conference announcing the signing of the team's first ten
players December 29, 2001 in Houston. The new franchise is currently
limited to ten players, can sign free agents January 8, 2002 but will
select the bulk of their roster during the NFL expansion draft February
18, 2002. REUTERS/Richard Carson
Mark Davis (L), son of Oakland Raider's owner Al Davis, talks with Houston Texans owner Bob McNair (C) as he is greeted on the field before their NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Houston October 9, 2011. Al Davis, the outspoken Hall of Fame owner of the National Football League's Oakland Raiders, died on Saturday at the age of 82, the team's official website reported. REUTERS/Richard Carson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL OBITUARY)
Former North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams (C) holds a Houston Texans jersey as he stands with Texans owner Bob McNair (R) and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue after being selected by the Texans as the first overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York April 29, 2006. REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky
Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, greets Texans fans before his team's season opening NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers in San Diego, California September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL PROFILE)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 12: Owner Bob McNair of the Houston Texans looks on before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 12, 2006 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Texans defeated the Jaguars 13-10. (Photo by Bill Baptist/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - AUGUST 15: Houston Texans owner Bob McNair looks on during a pre-season game between the Houston Texans and New York Jets at Reliant Stadium on August 15, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
05 October 2008: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell(left) and Texans owner Bob McNair chat prior to game against the Colts at Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX. (Photo by John Rivera /Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 13: Houston Texans owner Bob McNair looks on prior to the 2013 AFC Divisional Playoffs game between the New England Patriots and the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, reacts after his team wins the game against the New York Jets at NRG Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Houston, Texas. The Texans defeated the Jets 24-17. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09: Head coach Bill O'Brien of the Houston Texans talks with owner Bob McNair during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Kansas City Chiefs won 30-0. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 03: Tom Savage #3 of the Houston Texans talks with owner Bob McNair prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 14: Houston Texans owner Bob McNair on the sideline before the Houston Texans Vs New England Patriots Divisional round game during the NFL play-offs on January 14th, 2017 at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
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