Baseball’s Billionaires by the Bay: Forbes, September 2010

Lou Seal, the mascot for the San Francisco Giants.

Baseball billionaires? No, I’m not talking about the players – they may be millionaires, but I have yet to hear of a billion dollar ballplayer. (That may happen: Alex Rodriguez‘ last contract, the richest ever, paid him more than a quarter billion dollars over 10 years.) But the owners, now there’s another story.

Looking at my list of billionaires by the Bay, I was struck to see a few names I recognized from local ownership rosters.

You know mutual fund king Franklin Resources’ Charles Johnson must be enjoying this season’s stretch drive — he’s part of the large group that owns stakes in the San Francisco Giants, who just took three out of four from the San Diego Padres to move into first place. Another Giants owner, Jeff Mallett, was one of the co-founders of Yahoo!, but alas, he’s not on the Forbes’ list; his other co-founders, Jerry Yang andDavid Filo, are, but they aren’t on the Giants’ list.

Of course, the Giants were kept in San Francisco by a team of local businesspeople in 1993, led by former Safeway CEO (and Merrill Lynch scion) Peter Magowan (also not on the Forbes list), and the ownership has taken on a decidedly high-tech bent with  Bill Neukom, former general counsel for Microsoft, succeeding Magowan in 2009 as the managing general partner. Unlike his old bosses Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Neukom is not on the Forbes list.

But John Fisher is. Fisher inherited his money from his parents, Don and Doris, the co-founders of The Gap, and he is the big money behind Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff. That’s not Silicon Valley money, but never mind – the A’s are going after Silicon Valley, as they pursue plans to move their team to Fremont or San Jose. Of course, the Giants don’t want them in San Jose, which they see as part of their territory, so the two may slug it out off the baseball diamond as well as on it.

After all, owning a baseball team is big business – and a good investment, as Forbes reported earlier this year. Plenty of other rich guys are in – Ameritrade co-founder J. Joseph Ricketts is the latest in the club, with the Chicago Cubs, joining Angels owner and billboard tycoon Arte Moreno, Atlanta Braves owner and cable magnate John Malone, and others. The value of baseball teams continue to rise, so it’s no surprise that the smart money follows – and we call anyone worth a billion dollars or more smart.

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