Thursday, October 24, 2013

A World Where Billionaires Own Cities

Recently, I got into the English Premier League (let's go Liverpool and Steven Gerard!) and was stunned to realize that there were teams more valuable than the vaunted New York Yankees.  Seriously, I don't know if that my narrow-minded Americanism shining through, but by all accounts Manchester United in the EPL and Real Madrid in la Liga are more valuable of franchises than the Yanks.

As I've researched the EPL more, I've been struck by the net worth of some of the owners.  I've known for a while that the Glazer family owned Manchester United, but did not know that John Henry and the Fenway Group own Liverpool.  Stan Kroenke (of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche) is the majority owner of Arsenal.  So arguably the top 3 franchises in the EPL are owned by Americans, which has to honk the Brits off to no end. Additionally, three other teams (Aston Villa, Sunderland, and Fulham) are primarily owned by Americans.

But take a look at some of the other owners.  There's a sheik worth $20 BILLION that bought Manchester City recently as a plaything.  Roman Abramovich (owner of the Brooklyn Nets) is worth $10 Bills, too.

These teams are the crown jewel of the sporting world with worldwide appeal.  They're treated as status symbols for these owners.

But what if they get tired of owning a sports team?  What if these billionaires want to expand their power base and buy a whole city?

Things would have to change dramatically, especially in the United States, to allow the general citizenry to accept having their government effectively taken over by a hostile takeover.  But at this point with Detroit, who would really object if someone like Bill Gates came in and purchased the city out of (essentially) a bankruptcy sale?

A proven CEO would be able to eliminate the unwanted chaff, sell off the appropriate assets, and figure out the best economical course of action to bring a struggling city out of the red, just like any other business.  There would be drastic, sweeping changes, which would probably affect the retirement benefits of workers.  This would be an issue.

As far as the United States goes, the threat of a benevolent dictator owning a city would not be appealing in the year 2013.  But if Detroit is only the first major city in the next two decades to go third-world, the general public may change their minds.  In countries where democracy is not so prevalent, the billionaire owner could be a smoother entry.

It wouldn't be a Communist country like China or a strong democratic country like Britain.  Maybe Russia would be a good test model, as they have a lot of cities that suck and seems generally lawless.  Putin strikes me as the guy who will allow anything as long as he gets a cut, so maybe another Russian billionaire could propose this venture.

Just imagine the year 2090 and watching the Ford Hovercar Detroit Tigers play the Facebook San Francisco Giants play a game of quaint old baseball.  Will we long for the days of corrupt politicians that we can at least try and vote out periodically?

No comments:

Post a Comment