By David Barron
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) There are now 10 women who are principal owners of NFL franchises. David Barron takes a closer look at how ownership is changing.
While women have been involved in major league sports franchise ownership for more than a century, Janice McNair’s assumption of the lead ownership role for the Texans spotlights the degree to which women have an increased presence in NFL ownership circles.
McNair is one of 10 women who are principal owners of NFL franchises. Most, as did McNair, inherited their interests from deceased spouses or brothers; among the exceptions is Kim Pegula, who with husband Terry Pegula purchased the Buffalo Sabres and Bills and who is president of Pegula Sports and Entertainment.
Along with McNair, among the more recent additions to the ranks of female owners in the NFL is Amy Adams Strunk, lead owner of the Titans and the daughter of Oilers founder K.S. “Bud” Adams Jr.
“You see the women owners kind of gravitating to each other. I think we bring a unique perspective into ownership, and there’s more and more of us,” Adams said at the recent owners’ meetings in Arizona.
“I don’t really look at my job and go, ‘Oh, I am a woman and it is different.’ Because when I take on something, a job, I am just going to work hard until I get it figured out and getting this team going in the right direction. Hopefully someday, getting to the Super Bowl is where my focus is.”
Another relatively recent addition to the group is Gayle Benson, the widow of Saints owner Tom Benson. Tom Benson in 2015 changed what was believed to be the succession plan for the Saints, removing his granddaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc, from management and bequeathing the team to a family trust of which Gayle Benson was the sole beneficiary.
Amy Trask, the former CEO of the Raiders who now works as a studio analyst for CBS Sports, said succession planning is a critical element for sports franchises, which are essentially family businesses, albeit exceedingly lucrative ones.
“It is of crucial importance that such planning address both ownership and control issues as well as estate tax issues,” Trask wrote in an email. “Stated simply: who owns what, who is in control and how tax obligations will be met.
“That said, even clear and detailed planning won’t rule out potential squabbling over ownership and control issues (and squabble is a polite word that in some instances minimizes the behavior), but it can minimize it.”
In the case of the Texans, Janice McNair is listed as the team’s co-founder and senior chair and son Cal McNair is chairman and chief executive officer.