Stan Kroenke has gone big over the past 18 months as his sports teams have won titles in the NFL (Los Angeles Rams), NHL (Colorado Avalanche), and NLL (Colorado Mammoth) and finished runners-up in the EPL (Arsenal). He now has two trophy wins in another sports league, as his Denver Nuggets lead the Miami Heat 2-1 in the NBA Finals.
Winning was 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 been his father’s most trusted advisor and has been a major factor in KSE’s success in recent years, according to sports consultant Marc Ganis, who has known Stan for nearly 30 years.
“The Krafts have been the gold standard for team ownership,” Ganis said. “I would say a lot of that is because it’s actually two people in Bob and Jonathan Kraft. Now you have it in for Stan and Josh Kroenke.
The New England Patriots became a model franchise on and off the field under both Kraft’s leadership. The club won its first of six Super Bowls during the 2001 season, and a new stadium opened the following year that propelled the team’s revenue near the top of the sport. Jonathan Kraft was just 37 during that first Super Bowl triumph, but he’d 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 in 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 hand-in-hand with his father as they built the most valuable portfolio of sports team assets in the world, valued at a combined $12.9 billion.
The new generation of team ownership has also played a big role with the Heat. Ted Arison, who founded Carnival Cruise Lines, was the majority owner of Miami when the expansion team began 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, worked full-time for the Heat organization for 20 years — he also served as a team assistant four seasons prior. Lui was promoted to CEO in 2011 after working in nearly all aspects 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 still offers the opportunity to incorporate family into important parts of the business. Jerry Buss built the Los Angeles Lakers entertainment era with the help of his family, including his daughter Jeanie, who ran the Great Western Forum before taking over the presidency of the Lakers following her father’s death in 2013. In 2020 , was in control of the owner team when the team won the NBA title.
Jerry Jones upended the NFL business model after he bought the Dallas Cowboys for $150 million in 1989. He broke boundaries with sponsorship, merchandising, stadium construction and real estate development. His three children, Stephen, Charlotte and Jerry Jr., were fixtures in the executive suite as the value of the franchise soared 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, were involved in the team that won six NBA Finals in the past decade, with four titles, helping Golden Stand to become the Most Valuable Team in the NBA with $7.56 billion.
Ted Leonsis built a Washington, DC-based sports empire under his Monumental Sports & Entertainment umbrella. 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 in the last five years.
Zach Leonsis, 34, has helped his father push MSE into new areas. He leads Media & New Enterprises at MSE and was instrumental in launching the first direct-to-consumer streaming business owned by the team. In 2021, MSE opened the country’s first arena sportsbook at the Capital One Arena.
“He’s an incredible teacher,” Zach said of Ted in a phone interview. “One of the things he taught me the most is connecting the dots between seemingly disparate workflows, trends, how things all tie together, and then anticipatory thinking.”
The relationship between parent and child offers a unique opportunity in the business world. “We push each other probably harder than a typical executive relationship, and I think our organization is better for it,” said Zach Leonsis.
Leonsis, like Josh Kroenke and Nick Arison, has been instrumental in his family’s push into esports, including the NBA 2K championship that began play in 2018. The Washington-based franchise won titles in 2020 and 2021. It is an industry more in line with the trio’s demographics than that of their AARP-eligible fathers and helped expose basketball brands to different audiences.
These teams all have two owners for the price of one. Adds Ganis: “It’s an advantage in the property to have different perspectives from different generations.”
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