Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insists that he didn’t “get into the NFL for money”, although he’s made quite a bit of it by purchasing the Cowboys.
The motivations behind becoming an NFL owner range, from lifelong New England Patriots fan Robert Kraft buying the team to keep it in the region to a diverse Denver Broncos ownership group looking to bolster their investment portfolios.
Even with superfans like Kraft and late Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen purchasing franchises, buying an NFL team is hardly a charitable act. Modern-day NFL owners are billionaires seeking to boost their fortunes, and buying an NFL team is a certain way to exponentially grow wealth.
When Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones elaborated on his own motivations for his 1989 purchase of the team, he claimed that money was not a factor in his decision.
“I didn’t get into the NFL for money,” Jones said via CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones. “I had some and gave it all up — plus a lot that I didn’t have — to be a part of the Cowboys.”
As owner, president and general manager of the team, Jones has made it clear that he thrives on directing America’s Team, but the entrepreneur was fully aware that owning the Cowboys would be a savvy business venture. Spending the equivalent of about $300 million in 1989, Jones now has a multi-billion dollar net worth thanks to his Cowboys ownership.
A 1964 National Champion offensive lineman for the University of Arkansas, Jones genuinely did want to get involved in the business of football — but he also wanted to use team ownership to create innovative opportunities for financial growth.
Jerry Jones net worth: How did Cowboys owner earn his fortune?
The son of Pat and Arminta Jones, Jerry’s family built their wealth through business management from the 1940s to 1970s. First, the Jones owned two branches of Pat’s Super Market in Little Rock, Arkansas, after which they moved to Springfield, Missouri. There, Pat Jones became the president and chairman of Modern Security Life Insurance Co., where Jerry served as the executive vice president upon college graduation.
While his parents provided him with a job opportunity after college, Jones ventured out as an entrepreneur, trying and failing with his first several ventures. Before Jones worked for his father, he took a $1 million loan to open a string of Shakey’s Pizza Parlor restaurants in Missouri. Jones even tried to buy the San Diego Chargers in 1966, which undermines his assertion that he solely bought the Cowboys based on fervent fandom.
Finally, Jones turned to the oil and gas industry and struck “black gold” by founding Jones Oil and Land Lease. “Jones would strike oil on 13 of his first 13 oil drillings, becoming an instant success in the industry,” according to MoneyInc.
Benefitting from tax laws and the 1974 Arab Oil Embargo, Jones’ profits soared through the 1970s. By 1989, he was able to strike up a deal with Cowboys owner H.R. Bright, who had experienced significant losses through owning the team. Jones purchased the Cowboys for $140 million at the time, and to his credit, the Cowboys were not the juggernaut brand they are today. Jones deserves credit for turning Dallas, and the NFL as a whole, into a more profitable venture.
Cowboys valuation: How did Jerry Jones turn the team and NFL financial situation around?
Always an outspoken NFL owner, Jones kicked off his ownership by taking on the NFL and its way of divvying up merchandise sales in the late 1980s. At the time, merchandise profits were divided equally among all 30 NFL teams, yet the Cowboys accounted for 25 percent of sales. Taking advantage the Cowboys brand, Jones signed stadium sponsorship deals with Nike and Pepsi, even though the NFL sponsored Coca-Cola. The NFL tried to sue Jones, but Jones emerged the victor and earned millions of dollars for his new franchise.
Jones has made millions for the Cowboys and other professional sports teams by pioneering trends through corporate sponsorship. Jones is credited with bringing sponsored seats to NFL stadiums, and his stadium naming deal with AT&T has brought in an estimated $20 million per year.
Because of Jones’ efforts, the Cowboys are now worth approximately $8 billion in 2023. According to KXAN, the Cowboys also have the highest game-day attendance in the NFL with 86,000 journeying to AT&T stadium for home games. “The Cowboys have a huge annual revenue which exceeds $1 billion and a $162 million payroll, which has increased to $214 million in 2023,” KXAN reported.
While Jones is the biggest Dallas Cowboys fan in existence, he has also used his beloved franchise and its powerful brand to expand his personal wealth into the billions.