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Bill Maher and 10 Other Celebrities Who Own Professional Sports Franchises [VIDEOS]

Celebrity Owners
Chris Chambers/Mike Coppola/Pool, Getty Images

Commentator and comedian Bill Maher has purchased a minor ownership stake in the New York Mets, making him the latest celebrity to cross over into franchise ownership.

“I think it’s a great investment,” he said. “I think it’s a great team that I’ve been rooting for since they came into existence, which was soon after I came into existence.” Time will tell how involved and visible a piece of the organization Maher will be. Here’s a look at 10 other well-known people who made investments in professional sports franchises:

JAY-Z

Since 2004, the rapper has been a part-owner of the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets. “Basketball and entertainment go hand in hand in the hood,” Jay-Z said at the time. “I grew up playing basketball, and now some kid in Brooklyn can grow up thinking he’s a Net, if everything goes the way it’s supposed to.” Over the past years, he’s become more and more a staple of the team courtside and has emerged as a public face for the franchise as it prepares for their offseason move. In fact, Jay-Z was the man behind the team’s new logo.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Before becoming president, Bush was in charge of a smaller group: the Texas Rangers. Bush led a group of investors in 1989 that bought the team for $89 million. He stayed with the Rangers until 1994 when he was elected governor of Texas. Just because his tenure with the team is over doesn’t mean his devotion has dwindled. He remains an avid fan and an occasional visitor to the Arlington stadium which he supervised the construction of during his reign.

GENE AUTRY

In his first career as a singing cowboy, Autry entertained millions. But when he became the Angels first team owner, he elevated his prominence to another level. Although Autry died in 1998, his legacy lives on within the Angels organization. During his lifetime, he was the “face of the franchise.” During a tribute to Autry last year, one of his former players heralded him for being such a special owner. “He knew every player and knew everything about his players … their kids’ names, their wives’ names.”

WILL SMITH

The “Fresh Prince” went home again last year when he invested in his beloved 76ers. When the Sixers made an unexpected run this season, few people were as excited as Smith. When Philly endured a tough playoff matchup with Boston in March, Smith surfaced. “For me, this is absolutely ridiculous, to be here with Coach, to be an owner of my hometown team and to be sitting on the floor when we beat Boston,” Smith said. “Larry Bird ruined my childhood, so this is fantastic.” A true die-hard fan.

TOM CLANCY

Peter Angelos might be the most hated man in the Orioles organization since he bought the team in 1993, but there might be a saving grace for fans to take home: that’s when author Tom Clancy also invested in their team. A Baltimore native and an avid sports fan, Clancy was an actively vocal component of the sale nearly two decades ago. “I’m a businessman, and, when you have a potential business opportunity, you look at it,” he said around the time of the sale. Seven years later, he had to give up half his stake in a divorce settlement.

USHER

It’s easy to forget now, but a couple of years ago the Cavaliers were a hot property with LeBron James running the show there. In 2005, rapper Usher became a part-owner of the team “The Cavs have become chic,” said one blogger. “I want to thank my team for this opportunity to come in and give my bit of entertainment expertise,” said Usher. “Turn this thing up a notch. I just hope to make the experience at Cavaliers games one to remember for a lifetime.” With the way the Cavs have played since LeBron left, Usher might be regretting saying “Yeah” to this deal.

BING CROSBY

The crooner joined the business of baseball in 1946 when he purchased a part of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was still with the organization in 1960 when Bill Mazeroski hit his legendary home run in the World Series, though Crosby was nowhere to be found; too nervous to watch, he flew to Paris to avoid catching the game. Crosby taped the game to watch later, and then stored it in his wine cellar. What’s amazing is that decades after his death it was revealed that he was in possession of the last-known copy of the game. It was turned over to Major League Baseball in 2010 and is cherished as a time capsule.

NELLY

In 2002, Robert Johnson become sports’ first black majority owner when he purchased the Charlotte Bobcats. That sale has attracted attention and investment from others, including rapper Nelly, who joined up in 2004. “Nelly is a great entertainer and a smart businessman and those two traits will serve us well as we prepare to tipoff our inaugural season this fall,” Johnson said then. Around the same time, Nike and Nelly collaborated on the release of a signature shoe called the “Air Derrty,” which only further bridged the industries of rap music and basketball.

BOB HOPE

Hope made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1963, donning an Indians uniform. A Cleveland native, the entertainer joined a group led by Bill Veeck 17 years earlier to take hold of the franchise. Hope stayed active with the Indians many years later, and he was “a national ambassador for the team and his hometown.” At the last game at Cleveland Stadium in 1993, Hope sang his signature song, “Thanks for the Memories” to the roar of the crowd.

FERGIE

The Black Eyed Peas singer has been with the Dolphins as a part-owner since 2009. “Football Sunday was always a huge day of the week in my home growing up. That would be my dad and I’s way to get together… It became our pastime,” Fergie said in a 2011 interview. The singer isn’t the only celeb on the sideline in Miami — Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan, and tennis’ Williams sisters are among the franchise’s other part-owners.

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