How subpar teams keep raking in the dough 

May, 21, 2009
05/21/09
3:03
PM ET

After winning the NBA lottery on Tuesday, Donald Sterling's Los Angeles Clippers will have the first pick in next month's draft. But here's when Sterling really hit the jackpot: back in 1981, when he bought the Clips for $12.7 million and joined the exclusive club known as America's sports owners.

Owners love to complain about their plight -- "I'm spending my own money to build a stadium! Players' salaries are out of control! I'm losing millions of dollars a year!" And at the moment, it's true that a batch of NHL teams are hemorrhaging money. But the truth is that most owners in most sports in most years amass much wealth, whether they win or lose. And all too often, losing achieves better financial results than winning.


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Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.

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