What Is Clark’s Role? … Morning Cup O’Chiefs

With his presence for probably 75 to 80 percent of the negotiating sessions between the NFL owners and players, Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt has been right in the middle of the labor action this spring and summer.

However, when the league meets on Tuesday in Chicago for a special session to review the status of the negotiations on a new agreement with the players, Hunt does not figure to be much of a factor in the discussions beyond explaining portions of the negotiations.

At 46, Hunt will be the second youngest owner in the room. There are owners with socks that are older than Lamar Hunt’s progeny. While he’s been going to these types of meetings for years with his father and everybody in the room knows him and his family, Hunt does not represent any particular constituency in the league.

There are some that want to paint Hunt as some sort of representative of small market teams, but that’s not really a factor in NFL economics. It’s not small market vs. big market. If that was the case then Green Bay, New Orleans and Pittsburgh would not have won the last three Super Bowls.

Its big revenue teams vs. clubs with even bigger revenue streams. The Packers are the smallest market in population in professional sports, but they make millions of dollars that are particular to Green Bay thanks to Lambeau Field and the aura of the Pack.

In the last three years, business has dropped off a bit for the Chiefs, especially in the 2009-10 seasons. But before that, when they were under the direction of President-GM Carl Peterson, Kansas City ranked among the higher revenue generating franchises in the league despite having a small population market.

In fact, they were high enough on the revenue side that they had to pay money into a fund within the league that provided extra monies to teams that made less revenue. In fact, it was a point of contention with Peterson and the Hunt family that their success in producing revenue put money in the pocket of Al Davis and the Raiders, who ranked among the lower revenue clubs.

Things are not as dollar green for the Chiefs these days as they were in the 1990s and through first six or seven years of the 2000s. Plus, the overhead grew a bit in recent years as the Hunt family dumped $150 million into the revamping of Arrowhead Stadium and the team’s new offices and facilities. However, the equity increased, as the Chiefs are now one of those teams estimated to be worth $1 billion if it were to come on the market to be sold.

While the Chiefs are in one of the league’s smallest markets, they do not have the revenue problems of franchises like Buffalo, Jacksonville and Cincinnati that are also in smaller markets. The Chiefs, Colts and Saints are in similar markets – good revenue production when the team consistently wins, not so much when they struggle on the field.

So again, there’s no constituency that Hunt leads and in a clique like NFL ownership, the guys that have been around for years are going to rely on the direction and information provided by older hands, much older hands.

Hunt is older than only one other owner – Washington’s Daniel Snyder who is 277 days younger. Along with Cleveland’s Randy Lerner they are the only owners under the age of 50. Both Hunt and Lerner inherited their ownership from their late fathers. Snyder spent his and family money to buy the Redskins and FedEx Field more than 10 years ago.

There are talents that Hunt can bring to these discussions; that’s why he’s been part of the owners’ bargaining committee. He represents a fairly level-headed figure for the future of the league.

But Hunt is not going to lead a cadre of owners, or participate much in the arm twisting process with his fellow owners. That’s no knock on Hunt and his abilities to juggle the numbers or even negotiate. It’s just that most NFL owners aren’t going to fall in line behind a young whippersnapper, even if he is Lamar’s kid. The average age of NFL ownership is 68 years. The media age is also 68, as there are 14 owners that are 70 or older and seven that over 80.

The oldest man in the room will be Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson, who is 90 years old. He’s a friend of the Hunt family going back to their days in the AFL’s “Foolish Club.” There isn’t a lot that Clark Hunt can tell him that Wilson hasn’t seen many times before in 50-plus years of owning a pro football team.

Here are the primary NFL owners or managing general partners and their age as of Tuesday’s meeting:

Age Chief Owner Team

Purchased

92 Ralph Wilson Buffalo

1960

88 Bud Adams Tennessee

1960

88 Virginia Halas McCaskey Chicago

1933f

86 William Clay Ford Detroit

1964

83 Malcolm Glazer Tampa Bay

1995

83 Thomas Benson New Orleans

1985

81 Al Davis Oakland

1972

80 William Bidwell Arizona

1933f

76 Wayne Weaver Jacksonville

1995

74 Jerry Richardson Carolina

1995

74 Mike Brown Cincinnati

1968f

74 Bob McNair Houston

2002

71 Stephen Ross Miami

2009

70 Robert Kraft New England

1994

68 Jerry Jones Dallas

1989

68 Arthur Blank Atlanta

2002

67 Patrick Bowlen Denver

1984

64 Woody Johnson N.Y. Jets

2000

63 Stan Kroenke St. Louis

2010

61 Dean Spanos San Diego

1984

61 Zygi Wilf Minnesota

2005

61 Denise DeBartolo York San Francisco

1977f

59 Jeffrey Lurie Philadelphia

1994

58 Art Rooney II Pittsburgh

1933f

58 Paul Allen Seattle

1997

56 John Mara N.Y. Giants

1925f

52 Jimmy Irsay Indianapolis

1972f

51 Steve Bisciotti Baltimore

2004

49 Randy Lerner Cleveland

2000f

46 Clark Hunt Chiefs

1960f

45 Daniel Snyder Washington

1999

f=teams that have been in the ownership’s family and passed down to second, even third generations.

Clark Hunt is respected throughout the league for what he stands for, the heirloom franchise that he represents and the torch that was passed to him by his father. But he’s not a league power broker at this juncture like say New England’s Robert Kraft, a guy who has another lifetime of business experience and deal making over a younger man like Hunt.

His presence in these negotiations will pay off in the next time owners and players battle to divide up the pie. At that point, he’ll be an older and more veteran owner, with the experience of the 2011 labor situation on his resume.

If his personality allows at that point Clark Hunt could become a guy that leads other owners.

REST IN PEACE, FRED FRANK

One of the great “characters” in the radio business in Kansas City passed away over the weekend. Fred Frank was 70 years old when he died on Saturday.

Anybody that worked in the world of radio and television in Kansas City knew Fred; he spent 45 years in the business. His job title was engineer, but that hardly begins to cover what that really meant for people relying on him to get them on the air.

Back in 1990 when the radio broadcasts of Chiefs games went from KCMO-AM to KCFX-FM, Fred came along to handle the technical end of things. Or, at least he did until the powers that be at KCMO found out he was moonlighting and stopped the extra work. It was a great disappointment for Fred when he got frozen out of the chance to work the games.

He was one of those rare types that worked hard to discover what was wrong or broken, and then worked equally hard at solving the problems. In the world of radio engineers, that dual capacity was unusual. Plus, Fred always did his work with a smile on his face.

Rest in peace Fred.


5 Responses to “What Is Clark’s Role? … Morning Cup O’Chiefs”

  • June 21, 2011  - Green Bay isn't small market says:

    When you consider that the Packers draw from the entire state every weekend, the Green Bay market isn’t small. People here in Wisconsin have no problem driving 6-7 hours to make it to their 10 games a year.


  • June 21, 2011  - who knows says:

    one big boom to the chiefs would be the rams moving to LA. we all saw last year’s kc/stl game, it had more chief fans than anything else. the chiefs need to be Missouri’s only pro football team. period.


  • June 21, 2011  - el cid says:

    Comical comment abound.

    How about the Chiefs win it all? Then we might care less about GB or St L. Of course that takes big bucks spent throughout the entire organization from the stadium to the players to the concessionaires, not sure the Hunt family has the stomache for that. Oh, and we need a football season this year. I believe they are moving that dirction but will they get over the hump, wait and see.


  • June 21, 2011  - Tracy says:

    We know Carl Peterson is your friend, Bob and we appreciate the steps he took when he first arrived and resuscitated the franchise; but somewhere along the way, the generation of revenue–some might call it price gouging–seemed to displace pursuit of a championship. There may be some people in the NFL who can discern the fine line between keeping the game somewhat affordable and maintaining a respectable bottom line; Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder would, in particular, seem not to qualify in that regard while Robert Kraft appears the most capable.

    On one hand, the players need to appreciate the massive undertaking it is that allows them to play a game and make a lot of money but it is not the owners, except for Jerry Richardson, who have to bear the crippling scars and shortened life spans that plague the players.

    The problem both sides face is the dismal national and world economy; in fact, Mr. Kraft recently alluded to it. Since the inception of the AFL, NFL games have been brought to us by Ford, GM, Anheuser Busch, et al. Is it possible that their interest in doing so would wane if the buying power of their consumer base diminishes to the point of disappearing? Something like that may be the unanswered question that haunts this interminable soap opera.


  • June 21, 2011  - el cid says:

    Good comments, Tracy. Of course, the players do not have to consider anything. They have been at least semi pro since they were ided as a player. Their lives have been “protected/insulated” and have little grip on what goes on with the fans daily grind. Even the guys barely hanging on, buy into the union position of “we are the game”.

    As for the owners, who knows what they think. Wins do not seem all that important, much less championships. How many billions are enough? What can you spend it all on? How much is enough, got me.




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