Hip-Hop Moguls Courting Sports Teams, Looking to Own

Stars must align to gain even a small share

By Mac Montandon
|  Tuesday, Oct 26, 2010  |  Updated 7:01 AM EDT
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Jay-Z and Diddy -- rap moguls turned sports moguls?

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Jay-Z may have "made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can," but that doesn't mean he could ever own the team.

Still, the hip-hop giant with a stake in the New Jersey Nets has surely inspired a group of mic-masters for whom purchasing a sports franchise is high on their list of things to buy.

Last month Snoop Dogg proposed to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg via Twitter that they should tag-team on an acquisition.

"Ayo sumbody tell Zuckerberg to holler at me. He n I need go buy a pro sports team tgether," Snoop tweeted.

Zuckerberg's sister and marketing manager, Randi, was tickled by the offer and she and Snoop tweeted back and forth about it.

"It's official. @snoopdoog is my hero," Randi Zuckerberg wrote. "Snoop, what will the team name be? The Mighty Nerds? Save me some box seats!"

Box seats, in fact, could be a big reason why certain stars are attracted to the idea of sports team ownership. Jay-Z is regularly spotted courtside at Nets games and is now linked to the team in a way most celebs can only dream about.

Following Jay-Z's lead, other members of rap royalty's inner circle have lately been eying pro team plays. Earlier this year Diddy seriously considered making a bid on the south London football (read: soccer) club, Crystal Palace. Ultimately he passed on pursuing the squad but his interest in team ownership remains strong.

"I'm always looking into different business ventures and it's definitely one of my dreams one day to be a part of a sports franchise," Diddy told an English newspaper. "Especially a football team."

He's not alone. Miami hip-hop macher Birdman (nee Brian Williams) dreams of joining pop singer Fergie and Venus and Serena Williams as a Dolphins shareholder. He's discussing doing just that with the team's majority owner, real estate industry billionaire Steve Ross.

"It's in the works," Birdman recently told a local radio station. "You have to get a clearance from the NFL. We're waiting on the clearance. Once we get cleared, we're good."

He could be waiting quite a while. The ownership groups of Major League Baseball and the National Football League are notoriously cloistered, tough-to-crack clubs.

Rush Limbaugh felt this first hand in 2009 when he was swatted aside by the NFL players union and league owners after joining a group trying to buy the St. Louis Rams. And the keepers of baseball's proud legacy, including MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, considered outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban an unsavory option when the club was on the blocks in 2008.

If a league's gatekeepers approve you personally, there's something else that prevents many aspiring owners from joining the team: a locker-room full of cash. The Chicago Cubs eventually went for $845 million to the family behind the TD Ameritrade Holding company. Even a far less desirable franchise like the Cleveland Browns were recently valued at $1.03 billion by Forbes magazine.

No matter how many gold records you've produced, that's a lot of scratch.

It makes more financial sense for the non-multi-billionaires among us to do what Fergie and the Williams sisters have done and  buy a minority stake in a team. Even Magic Johnson, who's had a successful entrepreneurial career off the court, only owned 4.5 percent of his beloved Los Angeles Lakers before recently selling his share.

Now the Magic Man is looking to bring an NFL franchise back to LA. In order to do it, he'll need to find partners with far deeper pockets than he has.

Don't even think about it, Mark Cuban.

Selected Reading: Bloomberg, NPR.org, Fanhouse.com.

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