A $10 billion offer rejected? Miami Dolphins not for sale as F1 race drives up valuation

A $10 billion offer rejected? Miami Dolphins not for sale as F1 race drives up valuation


Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and CEO Tom Garfinkel will host their third Formula One Miami Grand Prix, knowing their courageous venture into one of the world’s fastest growing sports has elevated their NFL business.

Ross recently entertained a stunning $10 billion offer for control of the Dolphins, Hard Rock Stadium, and the F1 Miami race – which nearly matches the combined record-setting sales of the Denver Broncos ($4.65 billion in 2022) and Washington Commanders ($6.05 billion in 2023) – two people with direct knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. They spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

Ross declined the offer because he wants to keep the assets in his family, the two people said. Still, the offer shows the ceiling of NFL franchise valuations and sports conglomerates continues to rise exponentially.

Ross and Garfinkel have successfully infiltrated and elevated F1 thanks to the capital and vision devoted to transforming their stadium campus, where 90,000 people will roam daily Friday through Sunday as reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen aims for his third consecutive Miami win and artists, such as Ed Sheeran and Marc Anthony, will perform.

Fans can flaunt status and spread FOMO vibes to their social media followers after spending anywhere from $450 for a campus pass to roam about the grounds (down from $590 last year) to $600-$1,225 for seats to watch the action from the grandstands. Others could spend $4,000 to $12,200 (before resale) in premium luxury areas with high-end food and alcohol for the three-day event.

There is also a “fair expectation” South Florida will see more than $1 billion combined economic impact following its third race, according to Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst for economic research firm Applied Analysis, which reported the first two races brought $798 million to the area.

SportsCorp Ltd. founder Marc Ganis, a longtime consultant who has worked closely with NFL teams and other sports franchises, said the Dolphins’ stadium overhaul is “one of the great sports business success stories of the last decade.”

“I put the Dolphins’ entire operation, not just the team, in the Top 5 in the NFL,” Ganis said. “It’s the transformation of the entire operation to arguably the most successful, diversified, regional sports entertainment operation in the country – and by the way, let me just say – and globally in the world.”

Ross has privately invested more than $1 billion into the property since 2008 to host Super Bowls, college football national title games, this summer’s Copa America final and World Cup games in 2026. The massive undertaking in 2022 to transform their parking lot into a world-class racetrack has already paid off for F1’s expansion in the U.S.

“Miami joining Formula 1 has been huge for the sport in the United States, and the vision and enthusiasm Stephen Ross and Tom Garfinkel have for the event is incredible,” F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports.

“The event has quickly established itself as a destination for our fans, as well as the biggest stars from across music, sport, and entertainment. We continue to see our fanbase grow across the country on all our platforms and standout events like the Miami Grand Prix are a huge driver of this.”

Ross was committed to bringing a race to Miami – even after he tried to acquire F1 before it was sold to Liberty Media in 2016, and faced strong local opposition for a downtown Miami street race. Garfinkel’s background as an executive with Chip Ganassi Racing (2001-06) and Hall of Fame Racing (2007-09) also fueled Miami’s F1 pursuit.

Miami has one of three F1 events in the U.S., along with the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas (Oct. 18-20) and the Las Vegas Grand Prix (Nov. 21-23).

Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones praised the Dolphins’ innovation and aggressive pursuit of other revenue streams.

“They’ve verbalized all they’ve done down there, but I really look forward to seeing it,” Jones said. “My hats off to the whole crew there, starting with Stephen Ross, obviously. They’re very innovative in how they go about it. I think they’ve done an amazing job with the way they’ve brought their building along.”

Baltimore Ravens president Sashi Brown added: “It’s a spectacular vision that really required a great amount of know-how, creativity and courage. It’s not easy to go get one of the premier global events in terms of sports, and bring it to a venue that had not done that before. And to bring it domestically to the U.S. is an outstanding accomplishment.”

Miami curates fan experience, raising the bar in Formula One

Miami’s race slogan is “where racing meets luxury,” and living up to the mantra has forced other F1 locations to elevate their fan offerings.

The 72 Club includes black car service to and from the race, along with all-inclusive food and drinks, while the Hard Rock Beach Club will have Sheeran, Steve Aoki, Don Omar and Kaskade among performers. Other fans can access 75 local bar and restaurant vendors, bucking the trend of traditional stadium food options.

Then, there’s The Trophy House, featured in Haute Living as an invite-only VIP section, where Grammy winners perform private sets for a “singular alchemy of visionaries and influential leaders” dining on Michelin-starred dishes.

“They’re not just wanting to do another grand prix. They wanted to do their grand prix, which was good for everyone in F1,” popular former F1 team principal and Netflix star Guenther Steiner, who is serving as Miami GP ambassador this year, said of Ross and Garfinkel.

“A lot of other race venues see what is actually possible, and they realized if we want to be around in Formula One in five years, we need to get close to this. Miami has the advantage of being the first one to put all this stuff on the map.”

Could the Dolphins be a Top 5 valued NFL franchise?

Although Forbes valued the Dolphins 11th at $5.7 billion last August, and Ross’ sports empire 16th globally at $6.9 billion earlier this year, the recent $10 billion offer could influence a rise on the Forbes list.

Citadel hedge fund founder Ken Griffin, considered the richest person in Florida with a net worth of $35.4 billion, was in negotiations for a minority stake in the Dolphins, Hard Rock Stadium and the F1 race valued at $7.5 billion before talks amicably ceased, two people with knowledge of the situation said.

Griffin did not propose the $10 billion controlling offer, a person close to him told USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke under the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

It’s important to note: Investors buying minority shares typically receive a 20-30% “non-control discount” on overall value, Ganis said. Other factors like location, and the scarcity to own one of 32 NFL teams contribute to rises in controlling premiums. Doing the math, the $10 billion controlling offer Ross received is in line with those numbers.

The Cowboys ($9 billion), New England Patriots ($7 billion), Los Angeles Rams ($6.9 billion), New York Giants ($6.8 billion) and Chicago Bears ($6.3 billion) were the Top 5 valuations in the NFL, according to Forbes.

Marc Anthony, Fergie, Venus and Serena Williams and Bruce Beal, president of real estate firm The Related Companies, are Dolphins minority partners. But Ross, who is also chairman and founder of The Related Companies and has a net worth of $10.1 billion, still seeks investors for minority shares to fund further sports endeavors. And multiple investors have noticed Miami’s Super Bowl-sized event on a global stage.

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