NFL approves succession plan for Dolphins owner Stephen Ross

NFL owners have approved a succession plan for the Miami Dolphins that would give New York businessman Bruce Beal Jr., the right of first option to purchase the franchise should Stephen Ross, the current owner, die or decide to sell, according to league sources.

The arrangement, which was proposed at the recent NFL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, passed when the league’s owners voted on it at that time. It has not been previously disclosed.

The league and its teams generally do not announce such arrangements, but they are not out of the norm, and with ownership situations in Tennessee among those that have become cloudy recently in the aftermath of the demise of the family patriarch, Ross wanted to be proactive in his approach, sources said. Ross, who turns 76 in May, purchased 50 percent of the Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga in 2008 for $550 million and in January 2009 he took over full control of the team.

Beal Jr. is the president and general partner of Related Companies, a New York-based real estate and development empire, whose father was also a developer and has spent much of his life in construction and real estate.

Ross has very strong ties to the Beal family, as Ross founded Related Companies in 1972 after receiving a small loan from his mother, stepping aside as the company’s CEO in 2012, at which time Beal was elevated to president of the company. Ross and Beal are very close and have worked very closely together for years and one source said this was essentially akin to “keeping the team in the family,” with Beal Jr., a longtime executive at the company.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wanted a plan in place for Bruce Beal Jr. (USATSI)

The NFL declined to comment for this report, deferring any questions to the Dolphins. The Dolphins also declined to comment.

However, several sources close to the situation stressed that this is not an indication ‎that Ross has any inclination to sell any time, but rather emphasized the pre-emptive maneuver is "responsible succession planning." The arrangement does not guarantee that Beal will purchase the team, though Ross wanted a plan in place to avoid what can quickly became an ugly situation (when the Cooke family lost control of the Redskins, for instance).

The Dolphins have struggled under Ross on the field and the team’s attempts to secure a new stadium have not come to fruition either, with them falling out of the Super Bowl rotation and struggling to maintain a hold in the crowded South Florida entertainment landscape. Ross put in nearly $500 million of his own money into stadium renovations in an attempt‎ to buttress the club, but on field success has been elusive.

Ross has been committed to spending big, and has attempted several flashy moves during his time in the NFL, including signing Ndamukong Suh to a record contract a year ago, and has also made waves for some unusual moves (attempting to woo Jim Harbaugh as coach at a time Tony Sparano was still under contract, and firing coach Joe Philbin barely a month into the 2015 season). Beal, like Ross, resides in New York and made a strong name in the business community even before the age of 40.

Beal joined Related in 1995 and has been with the company since. Related Companies is one of the biggest developers in North America and in recent years they have branched out to large projects in South America and the Middle East as well. Beal is in his mid-40s and his family’s net worth has been estimated at more than $10 billion. Sources said there were other components to the deal with Beal beyond the stipulation of first right to purchase the team, and emphasized that while these two families are not blood relatives their deep relationship could not be overstated.

Ross is exceptionally comfortable with Beal’s ability and business acumen and it was not a surprise to those close to him that he has set the franchise up for the future in this manner.

CBS Sports Insider

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday... Full Bio

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