Red McCombs, a former owner of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and NBA franchises in San Antonio and Denver who is credited with helping modernize the basketball league, has died at age 95, his family announced Monday.
“We mourn the loss of a Texas icon,” the family statement said.
The billionaire businessman began his sports empire by buying the Dallas Chaparrals of the American Basketball Association and moving them to San Antonio in 1973, where they were renamed the Spurs.
The Spurs joined the National Basketball Association in a 1976 merger of the leagues and have gone on to win five NBA crowns.
“Red McCombs brought the Spurs to San Antonio and was a driving force in creating the modern NBA,” said league commissioner Adam Silver.
“He was an innovator and savvy entrepreneur who never shied away from taking risks. We mourn Red’s passing.”
McCombs sold his stake in the Spurs in 1982 to buy the Denver Nuggets, then sold them in 1985 and repurchased the Spurs before selling them again in 1993.
“R.I.P. Red McCombs. He was a legendary figure in San Antonio and had a huge impact in my life. We will miss you!” tweeted iconic center David Robinson, a two-time NBA champion and 1995 NBA Most Valuable Player with the Spurs.
In 1998, McCombs purchased the NFL Vikings for $246 million and owned them until 2005 when, frustrated at not being able to build a new stadium, sold the team for $600 million to current owner Zygi Wilf.
“The Minnesota Vikings are saddened by the passing of former team owner Red McCombs,” the NFL club said in a statement.
“Red embodied his famous ‘Purple Pride’ phrase and remained a staunch Vikings fan after passing the torch to the Wilf family in 2005.”
McCombs was also an investor in a Kentucky thoroughbred horse farm and the Circuit of the Americas auto racing course near Austin, Texas.