The Cincinnati Bengals were born in 1967, the brainchild of legendary Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown. The franchised joined the AFL, and played its first season in 1968, later joining the NFL with the two leagues merged in 1970. When Brown died in 1991, ownership of Bengals transferred to his son, Micheal Brown, who still owns the team today.
Like Raiders owner Mark Davis, Brown hasn’t had to do much work outside of the team his father built. Born in 1935, the younger Brown graduated from Harvard Law School in 1960. He started working for his father after the Bengals were founded, sliding right into the assistant general manager job in 1968 and staying there until the elder Brown passed away.
Mike Brown’s tenure as an owner got off to a rocky start when he fired head coach Steve Wyche. He soon invited more controversy when he started clamoring for a new stadium, paid for by the public treasury, arguing that the team needed a new facility to be more competitive. Brown soon threatened to move the team to Baltimore unless the city and county agreed to fund a new stadium. In 1996, the county bowed to Brown’s threat and got voters to approve a sales tax to build Paul Brown Stadium, where the Bengals still play today. He later sued the county for the right to operate the stadium, providing Brown with another profitable revenue stream.
Brown has been criticized over the years for the Bengals’ struggles—they haven’t won a playoff game and have only had eight winning seasons since he took over—and his refusal to extract himself from the personnel side of things. That’s invited another criticism that he’s cheap when it comes to paying players and coaches. Brown has pulled back from the football side of things over the last dozen years, which partly helps explain the team’s recent success hitting on draft picks like Joe Burrow and making their way to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1988 season.