Education: Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School
How They Acquired the Franchise: Paul Brown, Mike's father, helped found the Bengals in 1968, a few years after he was fired as coach of the Browns by Art Modell. Paul and a series of partners paid a $7.7 million expansion fee to bring the Bengals into the AFL, which would merge with the NFL in ’70. While Brown only owned 10% of the team, he became coach and GM and had autonomy over the business and football operations. Over the years, Brown worked to purchase the majority of shares, and in 2011 he paid $200 million to purchase an additional 30%, giving the Brown family 500 of the franchise’s 586 shares.
Mike Brown inherited the team after Paul’s death in 1991.
Net Worth: $925 million (per ESPN in 2015)
Franchise Valuation: $1.8 billion (per Forbes in 2017)
How They Made Their Money: Being an NFL coach was profitable even in the middle part of the 20th century. Paul Brown turned that into an ownership stake in the Bengals, and then used team profits to purchase more shares of the team. Paul passed the majority share of the team—and hefty salaries—down to his progeny.
In the Owner’s Words: When asked about the outside perception of how he runs the franchise, Mike said (per the Ringer), “I’m not deaf to outside opinion. I’m aware of it. That doesn’t mean I always agree. I’ll do what I think I should do. You have the freedom to tell me that I shouldn’t. And you do. Fine. That ain’t gonna change.”
Political Donations: Mike Brown has been a consistent contributor to Republicans in the Upper Midwest for years. He’s doled out tens of thousands to representative Steve Chabot, and another ~$30K for current representative Brad Wenstrup since he took office in 2013. He has also given a couple thousand intermittently to candidates such as George W. Bush, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, plus a $10K donation to the Romney Victory Fund in ’12. He also gave a $15K donation to the RNC in '00 and a separate $5K donation to the RNC in '12 that mistakenly listed his employer as the Cincinnati Beagals.
NFL Committees: Management Council Executive Committee.
Next in Line: His daughter Katie (Brown) Blackburn and her husband Troy would be prime candidates. They presently serve as Executive Vice President and Vice President, respectively, and handle most of the day-to-day and media relations roles for the team. Mike’s brother Pete had been Vice President of Player Personnel until his death in 2017.