RE: How The Chicago Bears Fumbled Away A Fortune

Soldier Field

From Monte Burke at Forbes on August 26, 2010:

In a league run by dynamic owners like Jerry Jones in Dallas, Daniel Snyder in Washington and Robert Kraft in New England, the Bears are financial flatliners… The problem begins and ends with the ownership… “We’re not one of those teams where an owner can infuse their own capital from their other personal business ventures,” says [Ted] Phillips, explaining why the team isn’t more successful. “This is the McCaskey’s number one asset. Jerry Jones can leverage. We don’t have that ability.”

In 2010 — when the above Forbes article was published– the Chicago Bears’ franchise ranked ninth in value among NFL teams. Not an achievement considering the team plays in the nation’s third largest media market1. Since 2010 Michael McCaskey has ceded control of the team to his brother George and Bears’ brass has fired two head coaches and two general managers. You know how the team has fared over the last several years but what about its financial status? Has the franchise’s value soared under George’s leadership? Simple answer, no.

In the last four years the Bears have climbed one rung in the ladder of most valuable NFL franchises. From ninth to eighth2. That’s not surge worthy, it’s barely progress. Maybe John Fox and Ryan Pace will turn the fortunes of the team around, creating a perennial playoff contender. But even a string of winning seasons doesn’t fix what’s broken in the boardroom.

Virginia McCaskey, her son George and team president Ted Phillips aren’t capitalizing on their valuable assets. A city of rabid sports fans, lack of competition and an iconic brand all lie at their feet. And yet the franchise fails time and again.

  • Soldier Field was renovated in 2003. It is the smallest stadium in the league.
  • The Bears ranked sixth worse in home game attendance in 20143.
  • The Chicago Park District — not the Bears — control the generally poor Soldier Field playing surface.
  • Ownership refuses to sell valuable naming rights to its home field.
  • George McCaskey keeps Ted Phillips employed as team president despite his lack of football prowess.

Will the McCaskey family eventually sell to a cutting edge ownership group? Will the Bears bring on new leaders that can unlock the earning potential of the NFL’s first franchise? Maybe but not anytime soon. Let’s hope the product on the field can succeed despite the questionable decisions of Bears’ ownership.

Niral Patel ~ ~ @SecCitySports

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