Anschutz, Kroenke tops among NHL’s richest owners

Jeremy Jacobs has made a fortune through his food and hospitality company, Delaware North, originally founded by his family almost a century ago. He’s made money from hockey too – Jacobs’ $10 million purchase of the Boston Bruins in 1975 is worth some $300 million today, a 650 percent increase after inflation. His company owns state-of-the-art TD Garden, where the Bruins and NBA Celtics play.

The only thing Jacobs (net worth: $1.9 billion) lacked over 35 years of ownership – a Stanley Cup championship. When Jacobs took control in 1975, the Bruins were an aging dynasty. Bobby Orr’s legendary career was winding down on bad knees, Phil Esposito was on his way to New York, and John Bucyk was pushing 40. Boston continued to put out plenty of strong teams over the years – the club never missed the playoffs until 1997 – but no ring. The only glimpse the locals caught of the Cup came in 2001 when Bruins Hall of Famer Ray Bourque brought the trophy to town for a visit after he’d closed out his career with a championship for the Colorado Avalanche. The draught seemed to take on greater significance over the past decade as the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics combined for six titles.

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In Pictures: The NHL’s billionaire owners

That all changed this past spring, when recent management hires like GM Peter Chiarelli and President Cam Neely led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup since 1972, taking a decisive seventh game on the road in their finals victory over the Vancouver Canucks. After fans in Vancouver rioted, Jacobs made a rare public appearance at the Bruins’ victory rally.

“Lord Stanley, 39 years, welcome home,” he told the crowd.

The NHL counts 10 billionaires among its ownership ranks, just one fewer than the NBA, where the median franchise value is about 67 percent higher (the leagues share two billionaire owners, Philip Anschutz and Stanley Kroenke).

Anschutz, the sports and entertainment maven who owns the Los Angeles Kings, the NBA Lakers (with Jerry Buss) and stakes in other sports properties, stands as the NHL’s wealthiest owner, boasting a net worth of $7 billion. Through his company AEG, Anschutz also owns several sports venues, including LA’s lucrative Staples Center and the $2.5 billion LA Live complex, complete with hotels, restaurants and theaters, alongside.

Behind Anschutz at $3.2 billion are Kroenke, owner of the Avalanche and Denver Nuggets (though not for much longer: Kroenke, who recently bought a controlling interest in the St. Louis Rams, will be transferring his hockey and basketball shares to his son in order to comply with NFL cross-ownership rules), and Pittsburgh Penguins owner Ronald Burkle, the food industry magnate who led his club to a 2009 Stanley Cup. For his new arena that opened last year, Burkle swung a deal with Consol Energy to commit to a 21-year naming rights deal.

Other hockey billionaires: Minnesota’s Philip Falcone ($2.2 billion), a hedge fund manager who bought into the expansion Wild, the club that brought the NHL back to the Twin Cities in 2000 after the North Stars took off for Dallas, and Detroit’s Mike Ilitch ($2 billion), the pizza maven who has presided over four Stanley Cup champions across 28 year since buying the Red Wings for $8 million.

The latest to join the club: Terry Pegula ($3.1 billion), a hockey enthusiast who made his fortune in gas drilling. Just a few months after donating $88 million to his alma mater, Penn State University, a gift that allowed the school to upgrade its hockey program, Pegula paid $189 million in February 2011 to buy the Buffalo Sabres from fellow billionaire Tom Golisano, the man credited with saving the franchise from a collapse or move when he purchased it for $92 million back in 2003.

The top five:

1. Philip Anschutz (Los Angeles Kings) – net worth: $7 billion
2. Stan Kroenke (Colorado Avalanche) – net worth: $3.2 billion
2. Ron Burkle (Pittsburgh Penguins) – net worth: $3.2 billion
4. Terry Pegula (Buffalo Sabres) – net worth: $3.1 billion
5. N. Murray Edwards (Calgary Flames) – net worth: $2.2 billion
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Updated Wednesday, Nov 2, 2011