SPORTS How Much Are The Dallas Cowboys Worth?

Sure, we don’t really need to know. But it would be fun, wouldn’t it?

I don’t want to lead you on any further. I don’t know how much the Dallas Cowboys are worth. At least, I don’t know exactly. But I do know that nobody else seems to know, either. And I know – now – that the last place to call if you want to know how much the Dallas Cowboys are worth is the office of the Dallas Cowboys. However, by putting together a few facts and a few floating rumors, 1 can at least make a slightly educated guess at a Cowboy price tag.

This little project began as a matter of idle curiosity. There is nothing at issue here, nothing to do with current events. The Cowboys are not for sale. Mr. Clint Murchison Jr. seems quite happy with his NFL toy, looks quite elegant in his Super Bowl ring, and sits quite comfortably in his 50-yard-line box. But there have been some intriguing rumors in the wind lately regarding the possible sales of other NFL franchises. Like many recent big-money transactions in America, the moneymen behind the scenes are Arabs. Some months ago, for example, there was talk of an Arab group that wanted very much to buy the Los Angeles Rams. Very much. The talk was that the Arabs were willing to pay Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom $50 million to get themselves a football team; at one point, $65 million was mentioned. Rosenbloom certainly must have taken notice, but apparently he wasn’t inclined to sell; perhaps he was leery of the Arab influence. More recently, though, the sale of the Rams has come up again with reports of a much more American buyer – United Airlines.

The interest of United Airlines in the Rams accentuates an intriguing and in ways disturbing trend in professional sports: ownership by big, diversified corporations. That’s another story altogether, but as an example, New York City’s professional sports are now largely under the thumb of Gulf & Western, which owns the Knicks and the Rangers. Warner Communications (a Gulf & Western subsidiary) now owns the New York Cosmos soccer franchise and, by extension of that team’s dominance, pretty much rules the North American Soccer League. With the rumor of United and the Rams, the trend appears to be extending into the NFL. Says one sports pundit, “Before too long, we’ll be watching a Super Bowl of Mobil versus Exxon.”

The Arabs have recently surfaced again with football franchise talk, this time on the other coast. Robert Irsay, owner of the Baltimore Colts, says he recently received an offer of $35 million for his team, and intimated that the interested group was backed by Arabs with “unlimited resources.” More intriguing reports had it that the head of the group was none other than former Vice President Spiro Agnew. Irsay rejected the offer, but he too must have at least pricked up his ears at the figures being tossed around. In 1972, Irsay bought the Los Angeles Rams for $19 million and promptly traded his new franchise, even up, with Carroll Rosenbloom, then owner of the Colts. So just six years ago, each of those franchises was worth $19 million; the figures being talked about now mean that Irsay and Rosenbloom might double or triple their investments if they were so inclined. As businessmen, how long can they say no? (Recall the scene in Warren Beatty’s recent film, Heaven Can Wait, in which the mythical Los Angeles Rams owner is asked why he suddenly decided to sell the team to multi-millionaire Beatty? “Well, I didn’t want to,” says the owner, “but the son-of-a-bitch offered me 65 million dollars.”)

Clint Murchison doesn’t want, or need, to sell his Cowboys. But let’s say, just for fun, that the president of Texaco called Murchison and said, “Hey, Clint, we wanna buy us a football team.” Just * for fun, I wondered, what kind of. numbers, what kind of dollars would it take to get Clint ’ to stop laughing?

There were only a few facts to work with initially in this pursuit. The first was that in 1960 Clint Murchison purchased the Dallas expansion franchise for $600,000. The figure seems stunningly paltry now, and it points up the extraordinary financial growth of professional football in the last 20 years. The last established NFL franchises to be sold were the Rams and Colts in that 1972 deal; as another yardstick, the Tampa Bay and Seattle expansion franchises were awarded in 1975 with a price tag of $16 million each. And then we have the $35-million figure for the Colts and the $50-million figure for the Rams being tossed around now. So much for appropriate facts.

At that point it was time to turn to the Cowboys for help. Ordinarily, the Cowboys are a very helpful organization; their public relations approach is as professional as the rest of the organization. If you want stats and facts, P.R. director Doug Todd is glad to oblige; if you want to know about the scouting system, head scout Gil Brandt will tell you whatever he can; if you want a few keen observations about the state of the team, general manager Tex Schramm is happy to offer his thoughts. But when it comes to talking about money, consider yourself out of bounds. I knew that when 1 started, but I thought I might be able to get a few “ballpark figures.” Just for fun, you know.

I started with business manager Joe Bailey. Bailey is a good man, respected inside the organization and out. He accepted my initial inquiry most pleasantly, until I finally got around to the heart of the matter: “… and so, just for fun, I’m trying to put a hypothetical price tag on the Cowboys.” “Hmmmm,” said Bailey, “I think you’d better talk to Tex on that,” and kindly switched me over to Tex Schramm’s secretary. “Mr. Schramm is on another line,” she said sweetly. “Perhaps first you could give me a little better idea of what you’re inquiring about.” I tried to be general without being evasive, but the magic word “money” popped out. “Oh…,” she said. “I’m going to get Mr. Schramm for you now.”

Tex Schramm answered in his gruff-but-cordial tone. I told him that, just for fun, I was wondering if we could play around with a price tag for the Cowboys. Tex didn’t want to play. “That’s confidential,” he said. “It’s private business

and I just wouldn’t want to talk about it at all. Besides, we have nothing to base it on. I have no idea what the worth of the Cowboys would be.”

He’s right. There’s little information to base such an estimate on. The only chance was to go right to the top, to Mr. Mur-chison, to see if he would play the guessing game. I called three times and each time he was “in a meeting,” according to his very careful secretary. I never got a call back from him. I guess he didn’t want to play. I must say, in Mr. Murchison’s behalf, that my timing was not good. My first call was the day before the ABC Thursday Night Minnesota game, and I really didn’t expect him to squeeze me in between Roone Arledge and Howard Cosell. My next call came in the wake of the loss to Minnesota, when Mr. Murchison probably didn’t want to talk to anybody. The third time was just after the loss to Miami; I was almost afraid he would call back and vent his wrath on a presumptuous reporter. But he didn’t.

So I’ll have to play this guessing game alone. One way to figure it is to use the rumored $50-million tag on the Rams and the rumored $35-million on the Colts as bases. I got some help here from Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, who said that the quality of the team is of less importance than the value of the market, and Dallas would fall somewhere between Los Angeles and Baltimore in that regard. “But,” he said, “I think those figures may be on the outlandish side. I wouldn’t put too much stock in them. If they were legitimate figures, I don’t think they’d be talking about them.”

The other route is more businesslike. I’m not very good at these things, but I’m told by those who are that a general, very general, rule for estimating the dollar value of a company is to multiply gross revenues by three. Hunt again warns, “The usual formulas don’t really apply here. It’s not that kind of business. It really boils down to what a willing buyer wants to pay a willing seller. And that hasn’t been a common situation in the NFL.” Nevertheless, just for fun, I’ve tried to figure a bottom line. Cowboy revenues are basically made up of two elements. The first is ticket sales: With 10 home games, all virtual sellouts this year, and approximately 55,000 seats at $10 apiece and 8,000 seats at $6 apiece, the Cowboys’ 60-percent take of the gate (40 percent goes to the opponent) would be about $4.2 million for the season; the road take (40 percent of gate) would be about $3 million. The other major figure is TV revenue: All NFL teams share equally in the television take, receiving approximately $5 million per team per year. Radio and other revenues are insignificant (radio is not very lucrative in pro football – figure less than half a million per year). Texas Stadium parking and concessions revenues go to the city of Irving, and NFL Properties money, from sale of logo items, jackets, pillowcases, etc., all goes to charity. So a good round revenue figure for the Cowboys might be $12.5 million per year; multiplied by three, the team’s value could be estimated at $37.5 million.

And since the Cowboys are a winning, glamorous, and efficient franchise, let’s kick in another two-and-a-half million for good measure. Making my final Cowboy price tag an even $40 million.

But that’s just a guess, of course. Mr.Murchison, if you’re reading, could yousatisfy my curiosity and let me know ifI’m close? Just for the fun of it, youknow?

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