Who Is the Houston Texans’ Owner? History of the McNair Family

As the Texans enter a tumultuous offseason, we look at their history, including Houston Texans' owner Robert McNair and his wife Janice.

Ever since the NFL made its way back to the city of Houston, Robert McNair was at the center of it all as owner of the Houston Texans. Instrumental in the teams’ development from Day 1, Robert and Janice McNair have been at the helm of the organization from the start.

History of the Houston Texans

While the NFL just had its 100th season a few shorts years ago, the Houston Texans have only been around for a short time. In fact, they are the youngest team in the NFL. They are not the first team to represent the city, however.

From 1960 until 1996, the Houston Oilers called the city home until departing for Nashville, Tennessee, rebranding as the Tennessee Titans.

After the Cleveland Browns had controversially relocated to become the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL needed a 32nd team. Houston, along with Toronto and Los Angeles, was the frontrunner. 

The City Did Not Wait Long for Football to Return

Committed to bringing the NFL back to Houston, Robert McNair formed Houston NFL Holdings in 1998. On October 6, 1999, the NFL announced that the 32nd NFL franchise had been awarded to McNair for $700 million. They played their inaugural season in 2002 at the newly opened Reliant Stadium under Dom Capers.

As of the end of the 2020 season, the Texans’ overall regular season win-loss record is 135–169. Most recently, the Texans finished 4-12 in 2020, finishing 3rd in the AFC South. The Texans are 4–6 all-time in playoff games, but those berths only came after winning the AFC South. 

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While winning seasons may not have been a constant for the Houston Texans franchise, one thing has remained the same — the ownership and guidance of both Robert and Janice McNair.

How Did Original Houston Texans Owner Robert McNair Earn his Fortune?

Buying an NFL franchise is not cheap, not even when it hasn’t played a single game yet. In order to step foot in the door, you need a massive amount of wealth. Luckily for Robert McNair, they had plenty sitting around when he became owner of the Houston Texans.

Hailing from the foothills of North Carolina, Robert McNair’s professional career began in the auto and truck leasing business. However, that is not what helped to amass his wealth.

In 1983, McNair founded Cogen Technologies. Cogen would eventually become one of the largest non-utility co-generators of electrical and thermal energy in the country. The company expanded over the years until it became the largest privately-owned cogeneration company in the world.

In 1999, Robert McNair sold the company to Enron and CalPERS for $1.5 billion. 

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Outside of football, Bob continued his business career. He owned a pair of power plants, one in New York and the other in West Virginia. He was the chairman and CEO of the McNair Group, a financial and real estate firm, and owned the Palmetto Partners, Ltd., a private investment company.

Unfortunately, Bob McNair passed away before seeing the team he helped build from the ground up reach a championship. McNair passed away on November 23, 2018. He had battled skin cancer since 1994 and had been in treatment for various cancers throughout that span, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia. At the time of his death, McNair had built his vast wealth to over $4 billion.

Janice McNair Is Now the Owner of the Houston Texans

Following Robert McNair’s passing, his wife Janice McNair became the team’s principal owner of the Houston Texans, with the title of “senior chair.” Her son Cal McNair is the current CEO and day-to-day head of the franchise. However, Janice represents the Texans at NFL executive meetings and other league functions thanks to her 80% stake in the organization. 

McNair is one of ten female NFL team owners. The others are Virginia Halas McCaskey (Chicago Bears), Kim Pegula (Buffalo Bills), Carol Davis (Las Vegas Raiders), Dee Haslam (Cleveland Browns), Amy Adams Strunk (Tennessee Titans), Gayle Benson (New Orleans Saints), Sheila Ford Hamp (Detroit Lions), Denise DeBartolo York (San Francisco 49ers), and Jody Allen (Seattle Seahawks).

Janice McNair is also currently the wealthiest female sports owner in the United States.

In 1989, he and his wife established the Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation. To date, the McNair foundation has awarded approximately $2.6 million in financial aid. 

The McNair family were massive helpers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He launched a telethon for donations and pledged $1 million of his own money, eventually helping the Texans to donate $2.7 million to the cause.

On September 12, 2007, McNair gave $100 million to Baylor College of Medicine to recruit top scientists and physicians. 

The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, established in 2015, provides gifts to create centers for entrepreneurship at universities throughout the United States. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey that decimated the Houston area, the Houston Texans owner joined J.J. Watt’s campaign and donated $1 million to the United Way of Greater Houston Flood Relief Fund.

Fellow Houston area owners jumped in as well. Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and the team donated $4 million to Houston mayor Sylvester Turner’s relief fund. The Houston Astros announced owner Jim Crane contributed $4 million to the relief fund as well.

Following Her Husband’s Passing, Janice McNair Continued their Support in the Community

In August 2019, McNair donated $5 million to Pro Vision Inc., a community-building project in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Houston. It was reported to be the largest donation ever done by an NFL owner.

During the ongoing global crisis, Janice McNair donated $1 million to the Houston Rent Relief fund to help apartment residents in Houston facing eviction during the economic recession due to the virus.

While not always involved with the day-to-day activities as the Houston Texans’ owner, Janice McNair has been an influential part of not only the team but the city as well.

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