Why Would Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross Turn Down a Staggering $10 Billion Offer to Sell the Team? Blame Formula 1 and the Miami Grand Prix

May 3, 2024

Also credit the organization’s ability to ‘festivalize’ sports, expanding a sporting event with a wide variety of options and experiences.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross in Miami Gardens, Florida. Photo: Getty Images

Two years ago, the Denver Broncos sold for $4.65 billion in 2022. Last year, the Washington Commanders sold for just over $6 billion.

Good money if you can make it, but it’s still less than the $10 billion Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was reportedly just offered for his team and stadium.

And, not coincidentally, for the rights to the Miami Grand Prix, which basically takes place in the stadium’s parking lot.

I didn’t go to the inaugural Formula 1 race in 2022, but by all accounts the event was a major success. Close to a quarter million people attended over three days. Another 2.6 million people watched the broadcast. The event had an estimated $350 million impact on the local economy.

Even so, the experience wasn’t perfect, especially for higher-end ticket buyers. So Ross spent over $100 million building a permanent paddock-club building adjacent to the stadium and added a number of pedestrian bridges to make it easier for people to experience different parts of the facility.

That worked a treat. More tickets were sold for the three-day event in 2023 than for all the Dolphins home games combined.

“The ticket revenue for the race is about 25 percent more than the entire Dolphins season,” said Dolphins president Tom Garfinkel. (A little math says race ticket revenue alone likely totaled over $180 million.)

In part, that’s because Ross and Garfinkel have embraced the “festivalization” of sports. You can roam the campus. You can go to concerts; this year’s lineup includes Ed Sheeran. You can spend $15,000-plus for luxury treatment. In all, there are 30 different packages. Hundreds of food vendors. Live auctions. Boats. Pools. Beach clubs. Games. Marketing activations.

I went to the race last year, and for many, it seemed like the on-track action was secondary to the broader experience. (Where else would I be able to exchange a friendly nod with Jeff Bezos?)

That’s why the organizers expect a record crowd of 300,000 for this year’s race; some experts feel the event will boost the local economy by nearly $1 billion.

That’s also why Ross was offered $10 million for the Dolphins, the stadium, and the Formula 1 race. Last year the Dolphins alone were worth an estimated $5.7 billion, up 24 percent from the previous year. Clearly, the Formula 1 race has added considerable value to the organization as a whole, so much so that Ross turned down the $10 billion offer.

Why not sell? For one thing, sports franchise values continue to skyrocket in value; today’s $10 billion might be tomorrow’s $10 billion. But Ross clearly believes in the growth potential that results from his ability to turn a football stadium into a multipurpose venue, and a sporting event into a festival.

As consultant and SportsCorp founder Marc Ganis says, the Dolphins organization has pulled off “one of the great sports business success stories of the last decade. It’s the transformation of the entire operation to arguably the most successful, diversified, regional sports entertainment operation in the country, and the world.”

When you can do that, maybe $10 billion isn’t such a great offer after all.