The Sports Business Journal is reporting that Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has taken preliminary steps to notify the league of his intention to change his successor from limited partner Bruce Beal to his daughter, Jennifer Ross, who already has an ownership stake in the team.
Ross and Beal are both currently suspended by the NFL for their part in tampering with Tom Brady over the past several years. One source told Sports Business Journal that this is not related to the recent investigation.
Will Stephen Ross change his succession plan to his daughter?
The report goes on to say that Ross circulated a draft document with the NFL at some point in the past several months. The process has not been completed, and it’s not known at this time if it will be. However, sources tell SBJ that Ross has told numerous NFL executives of his intent to keep the team in his family.
Pro Football Network reached out to the Dolphins organization but they declined to comment at this time.
The sale to his daughter would eliminate any awkwardness that would have likely occurred if Beal was to be put up for a vote by the other NFL owners to become the controlling owner of the Dolphins. While the NFL owners approved a plan in 2016 giving Beal the first right to buy the team if Ross were to die or sell the team, they would have to vote again to give Beal full control of the team.
With Beal being squarely in the middle of the tampering investigation — and with some even saying he was the driving force behind it — it would have presented quite a bit of hesitation for the other owners to vote in his favor.
When Ross and Beal were suspended earlier this month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the violations were of unprecedented scope and severity.
The NFL found that the Dolphins had “impermissible communications” with Brady on two occasions. First, Miami contacted Brady as early as August 2019, and through the regular season and playoffs, while he was still a member of the New England Patriots. These conversations were led by Beal, the Dolphins’ vice chairman, who kept Ross and other Miami decision-makers abreast of the discussions.
The Dolphins again inappropriately contacted Brady in 2021 while he was under contract with the Buccaneers. Ross and Beal were both involved in these talks, which included the concept of Brady becoming a limited partner and/or football executive with the Dolphins. Per the NFL, these conversations “at times” involved the idea of Brady playing quarterback for the Dolphins.
In January 2022, Miami contacted Sean Payton’s agent, Don Yee (who also represents Brady), and expressed an interest in hiring Payton as head coach. However, Payton was still under contract with the Saints and had not yet announced his plan to retire. New Orleans had no knowledge of these discussions. After Payton made his retirement public, the Saints refused to grant the Dolphins permission to speak with their former coach.
“The investigators found tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “I know of no prior instance of a team violating the prohibition on tampering with both a head coach and star player, to the potential detriment of multiple other clubs, over a period of several years. Similarly, I know of no prior instance in which ownership was so directly involved in the violations.”
No initial plan for Stephen Ross to sell the team at the moment
Ross has given no indication that he plans to sell the team anytime soon, even after being suspended by the NFL. At the time, he released a strongly worded statement.
“The independent investigations cleared our organization on any issues related to tanking and all of Brian Flores’ other allegations,” Ross said in a statement. “As I have said all along, these allegations were false, malicious, and defamatory, and this issue is now put to rest.
“With regards to tampering, I strongly disagree with the conclusions and the punishment. However, I will accept the outcome because the most important thing is that there be no distractions for our team as we begin an exciting and winning season. I will not allow anything to get in the way of that.”
Miami will lose both their first-round pick in 2023 and their third-round pick in 2024 as a result of tampering with Brady and Payton. The Dolphins previously held two first-round selections in 2023 (both theirs and the San Francisco 49ers’), but Miami will sacrifice their own first-rounder, regardless of which pick ends up higher in next year’s draft.
Meanwhile, Ross will be suspended through Oct. 17, 2022, and will be fined $1.5 million. Beal, who orchestrated talks with Brady, will be fined $500,000 and banned from attending any league meetings during the 2022 season.