Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, the Texas billionaire who once owned the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets and the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, died Sunday at his home in San Antonio at the age of 95, his family said on Sunday Montag said in a statement.
He bought the ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals and relocated the team – henceforth known as Spurs – to San Antonio for the 1973-74 season.
McCombs was instrumental in bringing the Spurs into the NBA as part of the 1976 ABA-NBA merger.
After the team rose to fame with superstar George “The Iceman” Gervin, McCombs sold his stake in Spurs in 1982 to buy the Nuggets, which he then sold in 1985 to buy back his stake in Spurs in 1986. He then bought the team directly from his other investors in 1988.
“I can say red [was] a friend,” Hall of Famer Gervin told the Houston Chronicle on Monday. “The impact he had on this city is incredible. We always say, “Anything that touches red turns to gold.” It’s a reality. His vision for this city, his vision for Spurs.
“We named them [the Spurs] after the city where he grew up [Spur, Texas]. So that says a lot about his influence at Spurs.”
McCombs sold Spurs again in 1993.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called McCombs “a driving force in creating the modern NBA.”
“He was an innovator and accomplished entrepreneur who was never afraid to take risks,” Silver said in a statement.
In another move that bolstered his record for buying and owning sports franchises for a relatively short period of time, McCombs bought the Vikings in 1998 for $246 million. He owned the NFL team until 2005 when, frustrated with efforts to secure a new stadium, he sold the team to the Wilf family for $600 million. During his tenure, the Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game twice.
“Red embodied his famous ‘Purple Pride’ line and remained a staunch Viking fan after passing the torch to the Wilf family in 2005,” the team said in a statement. “Although Red had a clear passion for the sport, it was obvious that what he loved most was his children and grandchildren. Our thoughts and prayers are with the McCombs family at this difficult time.”
McCombs also played a big part in bringing Formula 1 back to the United States. He was a major investor in Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, the first purpose-built F1 circuit in the United States and home of the US Grand Prix since 2012.
The Texas circuit and annual Grand Prix have been pivotal in the global racing series’ efforts to establish and expand a significant presence in the United States. Formula 1 will compete in the country three times in 2023: in Austin, Miami and the debut of the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
According to the McCombs Enterprises website, McCombs owned more than 400 companies during his lifetime, and the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin is named for him.
After working for the first of his many dealerships and later opening the first of his many dealerships, McCombs later founded McCombs Energy, an oil and gas company, and operated real estate and land development businesses, cattle ranches and breeding operations. He also co-founded Clear Channel Communications, which later became iHeartCommunications, Inc.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called McCombs an inspiration and “a true Texas titan in sports, media, business and philanthropy.”
“Red’s determination, accomplishments and positive spirit will live on forever as he embodies a relentless and passionate approach to life, relationships and community,” Jones said.
Charline McCombs, Red’s wife, died in December 2019. He is survived by daughters Lynda McCombs, Marsha Shields and Connie McNab, eight grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
Red McCombs, ex-owner of Spurs, Nuggets and Vikings, dies