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Miami Dolphins: NFL's biggest loser, Forbes says

The value of the Miami Dolphins has remained a steady $1 billion, but the team jumped up to 16th from 18th last year, according to Forbes’ annual list of NFL team values.

The Dallas Cowboys and their grand new football stadium palace top the list with $1.8 billion in value and operating income of $143.3 million. They’re followed by the Washington Redskins ($1.55 billion) and New England Patriots ($1.367 billion). Even the 32nd team -- the Jacksonville Jaguars are valuable at $725 million and operating income of $25.9 million – this for a team that had most of its home games blacked out on local television last season.

What’s of interest in the rankings is the Dolphins are one of just two teams – the other being the Detroit Lions – to record an operating loss. Forbes says the Dolphins operating loss is the most -- $7.7 million; the Lions’ is $2.9 million.

It’s unclear from Forbes’ numbers what the loss is attributable to – I was hoping to ask team owner Steve Ross about the figures last week when he was scheduled to meet with the media, but the team said he had to postpone due to business commitments.

So we’re left to ponder. To be sure, it’s difficult to lose money in the NFL. Of course, owners say costs keep rising and they want to reduce the percentage of revenue shared with players as part of their labor negotiations. But national TV money typically covers team payroll (before benefits), before a ticket or sponsorship is sold.

We do know – as he keeps reminding us – Ross overpaid for the team and Sun Life Stadium when he agreed to buy both from H. Wayne Huizenga for $1.1 billion. (By the way, Forbes identifies a photo of Ross as Huizenga -- and did the reverse in the 2009 rankings). That figure included the debt on the stadium particularly for the $250 million in renovations. Ross has also updated concession areas, added new seating areas and this year’s “The Experience,” modeled on the Fontainbleau’s Club LIV. But that debt shouldn’t be figured into operating numbers.

Perhaps that $7.7 million can be attributed to the millions Ross has spent on signing bonuses and making Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall the highest paid players at their positions. Last year, Ross spent more upfront money on re-signing players and attracting free agents than any team in the league and had the second highest payroll. Additionally, the team fell short of its goal of selling at least 50,000 season tickets -- ending with 49,415 last season.

Here’s Forbes’ note on the Dolphins:

The Dolphins took two key steps to improve their finances during the off-season. The team sold the naming rights to their stadium to insurer Sun Life for $4 million a year (an additional $1.5 million a year from the deal is paid to charities), replacing the temporary, soft-dollar deal it had with Jimmy Buffett's Land Shark Lager. More importantly, the Dolphins refinanced $235 million of stadium debt in a deal that includes a $159 million letter of credit that backs taxable municipal bonds sold through a government conduit but for which the stadium corporation is responsible. The deal, arranged by Goldman Sachs, contains a credit reserve that is significantly bigger than it otherwise would have been to account for the possibility of a work stoppage in 2011.

Categories: Miami Dolphins (186), NFL (178), Sports Team Owners (49), Sun Life Stadium (24)

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About the author
CRAIG DAVIS In more than 33 years at the Sun Sentinel, Craig Davis has written about a wide variety of sports topics from baseball to yachting, fishing to triathlons, and also worked as a copy editor and page designer. Recently he reported on local sports, including running, swimming, cycling, equestrian and beach volleyball. He enjoys sports as a participant as well as a spectator, is active in the South Florida running scene plays in the curling club at Saveology Iceplex. This blog offers a glimpse at the business side of sports in the interest of enhancing enjoyment of the games and sporting options as a spectator as well as a participant.
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