Inside The Two Billionaire Owners Going Head-To-Head In The World Series

John Middleton of the Phillies and Jim Crain of the Astros built their fortunes in very different ways.


HJohn Middleton thanked superstar Bryce Harper for his eighth home run at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday after the Philadelphia Phillies clinched a berth in the World Series. “I think he was underpaid,” said Middleton, who is being paid $330 million over 13 years.

Middleton, 67, should be grateful, not Harper; This is major league baseball. In any other season, the Phillies would have seen the playoffs in two time slots instead of chasing a third World Series title. But during this year’s collective bargaining agreement, the league pushed for a postseason extension, resulting in 12 teams, up from the last eight in 2008 when Philadelphia won the World Series. The change allows the 2022 Phillies to play undercover. The 87 wins are the fewest of any playoff team this year. Compare that to the Phillies’ World Series rival Houston Astros, owned by billionaire Jim Crane, who had 106 straight wins.

MLB’s postseason expansion is all about money. ESPN has spent at least $65 million on additional playoff games under existing television contracts, industry experts said. Apple and Peacock’s new deals, worth $115 million annually, push the total value of MLB’s media rights past the $2 billion mark.

There’s never been a better time to own a baseball team with the promise of other new revenue, such as jersey patch sales and increased sponsorship sales. MLB clubs now have an average net worth of $2.07 billion, up 9% from last year. Forbes calculations. The Phillies ($2.3 billion) and Astros ($1.98 billion) both rank eighth and 15th in the top half of the league in team valuation. Overall, MLB is expected to generate $10 billion in revenue for the 2022 season.

Martin Conway, a professor at Georgetown University’s Sports Management Institute, said, “As the valuation goes up, more people line up to buy the team.” “It’s almost like art, and it continues to increase in value regardless of what happens in other markets.”

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That’s good news for the billionaire owners of two franchises that have tied their fortunes in baseball. Middleton, who recovered his family’s tobacco business and later sold it, is said to have a net worth of $3.4 billion. Crane was self-made as he turned his logistics business into a sports property and amassed a net worth of $1.6 billion.


BILLIONAIRE MAN Definitely wins

The value of MLB teams continues to rise, increasing the fortunes of World Series contenders.


Philadelphia Phillies: John Middleton

The Middleton fortune dates back to the 19th century. In 1856, his great-grandfather opened a retail cigar store in Philadelphia. About 100 years later, the business began producing cigars, and in 1980 launched the popular Black & Mild cigar brand.

Middleton reportedly joined the family business the summer she turned 16 Philadelphia Magazine, after an MBA from Amherst College and Harvard, his father quickly put him on the company’s board (the other two members were his parents). Despite considerable encouragement from his father, Middleton purchased four tobacco brands from RJ Reynolds and created a profitable packaged cigar business.

This opened the door for John and his father, both baseball aficionados, to join the Phillies’ ownership group in 1994. They bought 15% of the club for $18 million, and John made it a point to be actively involved in the club’s operations.

After her father’s sudden death in 1998, Middleton consolidated the family business, buying out her mother and sister in 2003 for $200 million. 2007. His sister later sued him for more than $1 billion, accusing him of misrepresenting the company’s assets when she bought his shares. The siblings settled for $22 million in 2018 Philadelphia Reporter.

Since leaving the tobacco business, Middleton has only increased his investment in the Phillies. He eventually increased his stake to 48% and took the reins of the club after then-chairman David Montgomery fell ill. MLB blessed him as the team’s official controlling partner in 2016. Today, Middleton owns the Phillies along with the investor Buck family, who bought part of the team in 1981. Former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick and the Montgomery family. team leader and owns a small amount of stock.

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Houston Astros: Jim Crane

Crane, 68, chose a different path to success. He grew up a baseball-crazy kid in St. Louis, sometimes driving Cardinals players to local golf clubs and parking cars for customers at the team’s ballpark. He enrolled at Central Missouri State University in the mid-1970s and still holds the school’s single-game scoring record with 18.

In 1984, 30-year-old Crane borrowed $10,000 from his sister and founded Eagle Global Logistics in Houston after working in the insurance and freight forwarding business. Crane handled the details himself, and the business made money in the first month. More than two decades later, in 2007, he sold the company to Apollo Global Management, pocketing more than $300 million. A year later, Crane launched another logistics business, Crane Worldwide. Today, the total annual income has reached approximately 1.6 billion US dollars.

It was during this time that Crane made his first attempt at MLB ownership. He agreed to buy the Astros in 2008, but he declined, angering then-owner Drayton McLain Jr. and then-commissioner of baseball Bud Selig. New York Times. Crane continued to have unsuccessful stints with the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers.

His tenacity was rewarded in 2011 when he struck a deal to buy a minority stake in the Astros and a fledgling regional sports network at a valuation of $680 million. (His ownership in the Astros is roughly 40%.) Crane also received a $70 million discount from his contract by agreeing to move the club to the American League. Eagle Global has been under investigation for months by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which it named after the company, accusing it of racial and gender discrimination in the 1990s. (The company settled for $8.5 million, and the arbitrator returned $6 million after finding that only 10% of the claims were valid.)

By the time Crane officially took over, the Astros were horrendous as they endured a 100-loss season. The club was widely criticized for losing out on collecting top draft picks, but if that was the team’s strategy, it paid off. By 2014, the Astros had the best farm system in baseball, and it would produce stars like Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and George Springer. The Crane regime also pulled off some marquee trades in 2017, including the acquisition of future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. That season, the club won its first World Series.

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A fairytale twist ended in a nightmare. In 2019 Athletic The Astros were accused of using cameras and other technology to steal opposing teams’ signs and give them an unfair advantage. After MLB interviewed 68 people, including 23 Astros players, and sifted through 76,000 e-mails, MLB found the allegations of cheating to be true. League officials suspended AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for one year, fined the Astros $5 million and forfeited their 2020 and 2021 first- and second-round draft picks. Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement that the team owner was released. “Jim Crane was not aware of any MLB rule violations by his club.” Krahn fired Hinch and Luhnow.

“I think the baseball world was a lot more apologetic than what he wanted to say,” Conway said. “But on the other hand, the people of Houston seem to see it as a positive thing that he’s not willing to back down, spend, or stop doing the other things he’s doing. The city of Houston and the fans have stood behind them, and perhaps because they felt marginalized by almost everyone in sports, baseball, and the media, their probably more gathered around.”

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