Once a laughingstock, the Patriots are now laughing all the way to the bank.
The four-time Super Bowl champions are not only the NFL's second-most valuable franchise, but at an estimated US$3.2 billion are also the sixth-most valuable sports team… in the entire world!
According to a just-released annual ranking by Forbes magazine, New England's value soared 23 percent in the past year. In that rarified air, only the Dallas Cowboys ($4 billion), who top the global list, are valued more than the Patriots among NFL franchises.
European soccer champions Real Madrid ($3.65 billion), last year's top team, slipped to second place, while their rivals in Spain's premier league, FC Barcelona ($3.55 billion), came in third. Baseball's New York Yankees placed fourth at $3.4 billion, with British Premier League club Manchester United ($3.32 billion) filling out the top five ahead of New England.
Robert Kraft's Patriots were tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the sixth spot just one year ago, but experienced a sizeable boost in value since then.
"The Patriots have won at least 12 games in 10 of the past 13 seasons (they won 10 or 11 in the other three)," Forbes explained. "The team's success allowed Kraft to develop the retail complex, Patriot Place, surrounding Gillette Stadium."
Of course, Patriot Place has been around for several years now and continues to evolve, thanks in large part to the successful Patriots brand. New England won the Super Bowl two seasons ago and has reached at least the AFC Championship Game for the past five seasons. Since winning its first league title in February 2002, the team has attracted a worldwide following that has contributed significantly to its growth in value and given Kraft a lucrative return on his original $172 million (with an M) investment.
And to think, before Kraft purchased the Patriots in 1994, the team was in such dire straits, both on and off the field, that it was nearly forced to leave New England.