With the Vikings now mere hours away from kicking off their 2015 season, let me remind you that through all the joy and pain this team may cause you, there is one undeniable truth: the Vikings have made Zygi and Mark Wilf gobs of money, and the NFL is basically printing the stuff.
We get this as a yearly reminder from Forbes, which does annual franchise valuations in all the major sports. The numbers from the NFL tend to be the most eye-catching, and that is no different this year with the numbers released Monday.
Across the league, franchise values are up 38 percent. The Vikings are consistent with that figure. They were valued by Forbes at $1.15 billion last year; this year, they made a leap to $1.59 billion, good for 18th in the NFL and representing a 38.3 percent boost from a year ago.
These numbers are even more mind-boggling — and yet better contextualized — when we look at them through the lens of history. So I went back and looked in our archives for every Forbes valuation since 2002.
In 2002, the Vikings were valued at $437 million by Forbes. In 2004, the last Forbes valuation before the Wilfs took over in May of 2005 after buying the team for a reported $600 million, the team was valued right in that ballpark at $604 million.
So the Vikings are worth nearly $1 billion more now than when the Wilfs bought them a decade ago.
It wasn’t exactly a perfectly steady climb, though. From 2005 through 2008, the Vikings increased in value but ranked last every year in franchise value among the NFL’s 32 teams.
From 2008 to 2011, the overall value actually dropped — fueled by local stadium uncertainty but also the recession and labor unrest, as several teams dropped in value.
In 2012, after a massive new TV contract was announced and the Vikings’ new stadium was approved, the Vikings had a 22 percent increase — the largest in the league — to $975 million.
With that TV contract taking effect in 2014, the year in which Forbes measured revenue and operating income for the purpose of the valuations that came out Monday, tons of teams soared in value — including the Vikings, who are worth twice as much as they were worth just four years ago according to Forbes.
The Vikings’ new stadium is also a factor in the valuation, as Forbes notes it took that into consideration when coming up with the figure but adding that for both the Vikings and Falcons “we will not have a complete handle on the impact the new stadiums will have until they finish their first seasons in their new digs.”
So while the TV money — spread evenly throughout the league — is what has pushed all teams up, it’s reasonable to conclude the new stadium has given the Vikings enough of an additional goose that they now rank more in the middle-of-the-pack in terms of valuation (18th this year) as opposed to last or close to last as they so often did in the 2000s.
As crazy as the Vikings’ jump over the years has been, consider they are nowhere near as valuable as the top NFL teams. The Cowboys are valued at $4 billion, leading every pro franchise in the world. And the average NFL team, thanks to some heavy-hitters at the top, checks in at $1.97 billion — still almost $400 million more than the Vikings.
At a certain point, though, an extra 1 or 0 doesn’t mean much. In a binary world of haves and have-nots, it’s clear that every NFL team fits into the first category.