picture of Denise Debartolo YorkDenise Debartolo York

San Francisco 49ers Owner - Denise Debartolo York

The owner of the San Francisco 49ers NFL football team is Denise Debartolo York. An Ohio resident, she got control of the team in 2000 as a result of a settlement related to the legal problems of her brother Eddie Debartolo Jr. (who was convicted of a crime in Louisiana) and lawsuits within the family. Both she and her brother acquired their immense wealth through inheriting the real estate fortune of their father - Eddie Debartolo Sr (who purchased the San Francisco 49ers in 1977 and gave it to his son).

In 2009, Forbes magazine estimated her wealth at 900 million dollars, saying that one of her major real estate holdings had recently dropped in value 30%.

Although she inherited a fortune from a father who's business was real estate, and while she continues to have the majority of her massive fortune as real estate holdings, there is one type of real estate that Ms. York is unwilling to own - a Santa Clara San Francisco 49ers football stadium.

Who is the owner of the San Francisco 49ers?

OwnerPercentageValue as of 2/2012
Denise Debartolo York99%$841.5 million
Gideon Yu1%$8.5 million

Gideon Yu - New Face of the San Francisco 49ers in Silicon Valley?

Gideon Yu with Ronnie Lott and Barry Bonds

On February 10, 2012, the San Francisco Examiner reported that Gideon Yu had purchased a portion of the San Francisco 49ers. Yu was also promoted from Chief Strategy Officer (a position he attained in April of 2011) for the San Francisco 49ers, to President. Although the terms of the deal were not given by the 49ers, NFL sources told the newspaper that the amount was 1% of the team for $8.5 million, and that Yu can buy up to five percent of the team in the future. While this only gives Yu - a Korean immigrant turned Silicon Valley millionaire (Yahoo, Facebook, YouTube) - a token ownership of the team, it will no doubt help team marketing in Santa Clara County where Internet millionaires abound and 50% of the households speak a language other than English at home. Yu and the 49ers are now free to refer to him as "co-owner" (as the headline from the San Francisco Examiner does), leaving out the fact that it is only a very minor 1% stake. In fact, it is possible that the "co" will be dropped in the future, as has happened with other professional sports team minority owners such as Al Davis, who did not own a majority of the Oakland Raiders until 2005 but was referred to as the "Raiders owner" for decades.

Who is Right - The Real Estate Magnate or the Stadium Five?

Denise Debartolo York is from a family that made their fortune in the real estate business. The vast majority of her fortune is still in real estate. Denise Debartolo York could afford to build and run an NFL football stadium on her own. The San Francisco 49ers, run by her husband John York and son Jed York, could afford to build and run an NFL football stadium on their own. But the Yorks and their financial advisors have chosen not to. In their expert opinion it is not a good investment. On the other hand, the Stadium Five is jumping up and down claiming an NFL stadium is a great investment and desperately wants the city of Santa Clara to own one. Why would the Yorks and their advisors, real estate investment professionals, think the stadium is a bad investment and yet the Stadium Five think it is a great investment - even claiming it can't fail?

Patricia MahanMahan

For example, Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan said at the June 2, 2009 council meeting:

"I have no fears that going forward this project will be a tremendous success"

First, the Stadium Five probably don't believe that the stadium is guaranteed to make money or be a "tremendous success". They are all politicians and are used to using exaggeration and falsehood in order to convince the public to go along with what they want. Secondly, the Stadium Five are dealing with other people's money, while Denise Debartolo York is dealing with her money. So the Stadium Five can make all kinds of claims, even believing some of it, but in the end they won't lose a penny of their own money if what they are saying is untrue. They are spending the money of the taxpayers of Santa Clara, of which they are only a tiny fraction. Whereas Denise Debartolo York has to make the decision based on whether she will lose her own money. A big difference and why she says owning the stadium is a bad deal while the Stadium Five says it's a great deal. And finally, politicians look at the building of a stadium as a tremendous plus on their resume - even if it loses money for the city. As long as the stadium is the site of large events - like NFL football games - they see it as something they can brag about bringing to the city.

John and John Edward "Jed" York

John and Jed York John and John Edward "Jed" York

Denise Debartolo York has delegated most of the business operations of the San Francisco 49ers to her husband John and son John Edward "Jed" York.