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Jerry Jones’ Start-Up Story

Hometown: North Little Rock, Arkansas
Education: University of Arkansas
Net Worth: $2 billion (2011)
Best known for: Owning the Dallas Cowboys
Quotable: “Any one of 500 coaches could have won those Super Bowls,” Jones after firing Jimmy Johnson, in favor of Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer. Jones later remarked, “that was just the whiskey talking.”

Billion Dollar Cowboy

Today, Jerry Jones is known as one of the most recognizable figures in all of professional sports. Since purchasing the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, Jones has brought a Texas-sized personality to the franchise, becoming intricately involved as general manager in the day-to-day operations of the team and leading them to three Super Bowl championships in the 1990’s. Off the field, Jones has utilized his marketing and business acumen to make the Cowboys a billion dollar operation with earning power throughout the United States and around the world.

From Football to Oil and Back Again

Jones grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was a star football player in high school and was awarded an athletic scholarship to the University of Arkansas. While a member of the Arkansas Razorbacks football squad, Jones was an all-conference selection as an offensive lineman and co-captain of the 1964 Arkansas national championship team. After graduating from Arkansas in 1965, Jones was hired by his father’s insurance company in Springfield, Missouri. In 1967, in a move that would forever change the landscape of professional football, Jones passed on the chance to purchase the San Diego Chargers and instead returned to the University of Arkansas to pursue a master’s degree. He would go on to found Jones Oil and Land Lease, an energy exploration company which found great success in the 1970’s and 1980’s, expanding to the West Coast and into Canada. Jones used the fortune he amassed from Jones Oil and Land Lease to purchase the Dallas Cowboys franchise and their Texas Stadium facility from Bum Bright in 1989 for $140 million.

A Controversial Decision

When Jones purchased the team, he inherited a depleted roster which had endured three consecutive losing seasons, a far cry from the glory days of ten playoff appearances in eleven seasons between 1975 and 1985. One of Jones’ first decisions as owner of the Cowboys was also his most controversial, and many of the team’s fans still criticize him for it to this day: the firing of legendary coach Tom Landry. Jones replaced Landry with his Arkansas teammate, Jimmy Johnson, and the pair amassed a nucleus of talent around stars such as Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin which would win three Super Bowl championships and make eight playoff appearances between 1991 and 1999. Because of the franchise’s success during that time period, they solidified their moniker as “America’s Team,” and the team became a nationwide phenomenon with an enormous fan following.

A Valuable Venue

In recent years, the Cowboys’ on-the-field success has been less prevalent; however, Jones has continued his aggressive marketing and promotional tactics to make the franchise the most valuable in the NFL at over $1.8 billion (more than ten times what Jones paid to purchase the team 22 years ago). He has signed cross-promotional concessions contracts with the New York Yankees, launched a Cowboys clothing line, and most notably, in 2009, open a $1.3 billion stadium in Arlington, Texas that has quickly become one of the world’s most recognizable sporting venues with its unique design and massive video boards. The new Cowboys Stadium has a seating capacity in excess of 100,000 spectators for special events, and has already hosted a Super Bowl, Cotton Bowl, NBA All-Star Game, and Big 12 Championship. In the future, the stadium will host an NCAA Final Four, as well as many premiere college football games, which will undoubtedly contribute to Jones’ bottom line. Of course, Cowboys fans also hope that “Jerryworld” will serve as the host to several NFC Championship games in the near future as well.

Love him or hate him, Jerry Jones has made a name for himself with high-risk, high-reward decisions that have established him as a fixture not only in the sports world, but in American culture as well. If you are looking for one of the most outspoken and innovative trendsetters in the sports world today, look no further than Jerry Jones.

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