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Who Owns the 49ers? How One Powerful Woman Seized Control After Scandal

The San Francisco 49ers are rich in history and winning, something the current owner has kept up after taking ownership from her brother.

The San Francisco 49ers will play in the franchise's eighth Super Bowl appearance when they take on the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch from four years ago.

As one of the most storied teams in NFL history — with five championships and 29 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — the current crop of players including Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey and Nick Bosa have a chance to add to the legacy in the Bay Area.

Naturally, fans watching Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium might wonder who owns the 49ers. The team is one of the rarer instances of female ownership in the NFL, a list that includes the likes of Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp, Chicago Bears owner Virginia Halas McCaskey and Tennessee Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk, among others.

Who Owns the San Francisco 49ers?

Denise York and Joe Montana speak on the sidelines.

(Photo by JOSE CARLOS FAJARDO/MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)

The 49ers are owned by billionaire businesswoman Denise DeBartolo York, who is worth a reported $5.8 billion

She's the daughter of Edward DeBartolo Sr., who owned a real estate and construction corporation with his name and bought the team for $13 million in 1977. The DeBartolo family also bought the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins that same year and sold the team in 1991 after the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.

DeBartolo Sr.'s son, Edward DeBartolo Jr., owned and operated the 49ers for 23 years and notably took the team to unprecedented heights, winning five Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s. It also produced legendary players including Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young, to name a few.

While their father died in 1994, it wasn't until a scandal in the family that Denise would gain ownership of the 49ers.

A Family Scandal, NFL Suspension and Trump Pardon

49ers owner Denise Debartolo York and brother Eddie Debartolo in 2006

49ers owner Denise DeBartolo York and brother Eddie DeBartolo Jr. in 2006. (Photo by Robert B. Stanton/Getty Images)

In the late '90s, DeBartolo Jr. found himself in hot water for failing to report a felony after paying Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards $400,000 for a riverboat gambling license. Edwards served eight years in prison for racketeering charges, while DeBartolo Jr. avoided any prison time.

But the NFL brought the hammer down on the beloved 49ers owner. The league fined him $1 million and suspended him for one year, which effectively ended his tenure in the Bay Area.

After the NFL's decision, Denise and Eddie Jr. reached an agreement in which she would gain full ownership of the 49ers. The reported agreement would send him real estate and "other investments worth tens of millions of dollars," according to

Despite the perception by some that he was forced to cede ownership to his sister, Eddie Jr. told reporters in 2016 that wasn't the case and that he wanted to move on and focus on his family.

"Truthfully, the team really wasn't taken away from me. I think it's been a misnomer for many many years. Commissioner [Paul] Tagliabue did obviously suspend me, but as I was going through negotiations with my family and we went through these negotiations and we went through them with lawyers, obviously and with a judge in Akron, Ohio," he said.

"It did not come down to that team being taken, it came down to a decision that had to be made whether or not I wanted the 49ers or whether or not I wanted to take the other part of the company. And I figured at that time, and my sister Denise [49ers owner Denise York] was involved totally as was her family. I decided in that meeting in Akron Ohio, that I thought it would be best that I took the other side and my tenure with the 49ers would end then and end there.

"I don't know if that story has ever been told, it may have been, it may have not been. But, it really was a choice, I figured there was more to do with my life at that time. I had succeeded and done a lot with the 49ers. It meant the world to me, but I figured with my daughters, with them getting older and obviously with all of us getting older and having grandchildren at the time, and them planning on families, that it would be best for me to do what was best to be a good grandfather, be a good husband and dad, and do what I want to do and maybe travel a little bit and spend more time with my family."

Either way, it was a move that paid off for Denise and her husband, John York, as the team is now worth $6 billion. Their son, Jed York, is currently the 49ers CEO and has been with the team in some capacity for nearly two decades.

Jed York poses with his family.

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

As for Eddie Jr., he was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016 for his incredible run of Super Bowl titles. Among the players in attendance were Montana, Young and Rice.

In February 2020, now-former President Donald Trump pardoned Eddie Jr. Several former 49ers players showed up to the White House for the announcement, including Rice.

"Today is a great day for him," Rice told NBC News. "I'm glad to be here and be a part of that. And you know, it's just something I'll never forget. You know, this man, he has done so much in the community, he has done so much in NFL football."

The 49ers haven't won a Super Bowl since that scandal rocked the family and the franchise. But if this year's team can find a way to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Taylor Swift-backed Chiefs, the family can add another ring to their collection.

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