Forbes Magazine released their list of the 400 wealthiest Americans this week, and a familiar name to Cleveland sports fans made a return to the list.
Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans, made the list for the first time since 2007. With an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion, Gilbert is 293rd on the list.
In addition to founding Quicken Loans and owning the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gilbert also owns the rights to two yet-to-be-built casinos in Ohio. Gilbert also owns a number of smaller start up companies such as Fathead and is active in real estate in Michigan.
With the housing crisis that crippled the nation’s economy over the last half decade, Gilbert’s Quicken Loans was one of the mortgage companies to survive the recession and come out not only relatively unscathed, but also once again profitable. Political opinions aside, Gilbert has proven himself to be a very shrewd businessman who is a mixture of intelligence and instinct.
It’s interesting that this list comes out now, in the midst of an NBA lockout in which Gilbert is accused of being the ring leader of the hard liners looking for a hard cap system and a significant decrease in the percentage of Basketball Related Income going to the players.
Depending on bias and opinion, some will see this list and Gilbert’s increase in personal worth in the last year as proof of Gilbert’s eye on his own bottom line. This outlook will tie him to the owners who are trying to maximize profits.
Still others might see this as proof that Gilbert doesn’t need to maximize profits with this venture and can afford to spend on his Cavaliers franchise to make them competitive in any system. This outlook would tie him to the owners who are seeking a hard cap not for profit’s sake, but for the sake of achieving a more competitive balance for smaller market teams and midwest teams in cold weather cities.
Gilbert’s brashness and his stream of consciousness ravings on Twitter certainly make him an easy target and an unpopular figure amongst many media and blogs outside of Cleveland. Making money on the housing market in a time when many folks are struggling to keep their houses also puts him in an unsympathetic position as well.
In Cleveland, though, Gilbert’s wealth and his growing interests in Ohio (both casinos and in other ventures), makes him a figure offering a certain level of comfort and ease for Cavs fans.
In a time when Cleveland’s economy supposedly makes the city too overstretched for 3 professional sports teams, and talk of contraction seems to keep coming up in media speculation on ways to “fix” the league, having a stable owner such as Gilbert means the Cavaliers are unlikely to go anywhere any time soon. More importantly, Gilbert’s steadfastness in fighting for a more competitive system shows his commitment to bringing a Championship to this city.
The NBA lockout is beginning to threaten this NBA season. For hardcore NBA fans, this is devastating news. Sentiment amongst Cavalier fans is different. Cavs fans seem to generally remain behind Dan Gilbert and willing to sacrifice an entire season to get a system in place that will stop the cycle of NBA Championships in cities such as Los Angeles and Boston.
There’s a fair question as to whether the NBA’s lack of parity is due to the soft cap system or more due to the impact one superstar can have on his team. The NBA is not the team sport that the NFL is. The teams with the best players in the NBA have the best chance to win the Championship. A hard cap system that reduces movement amongst superstars may actually backfire and reduce parity even more. Regardless, the NBA owners are committed to doing something to both balance the distribution of stars as well as increase revenues for owners. It just turns out that Dan Gilbert may not need the revenue as much as some other owners in the league do.
Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images