Malcolm Glazer, who ascended from near-poverty as a teenager to owning the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and international soccer powerhouse Manchester United, died Wednesday, the Buccaneers announced. He was 85.
Glazer suffered two strokes in 2006 that limited his mobility and left him with slurred speech.
"Malcolm Glazer was the guiding force behind the building of a Super Bowl-champion organization," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "His dedication to the community was evident in all he did, including his leadership in bringing Super Bowls to Tampa Bay. Malcolm's commitment to the Bucs, the NFL and the people of the Tampa Bay region are the hallmarks of his legacy."
The son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants who lost several relatives in the Holocaust, Glazer was raised in Rochester, N.Y., where he was born on Aug. 25, 1928. He was 15 when his father, a pawnbroker, died of cancer and left the family $300 in a cigar box.
Malcolm took over the business and at 21 opened a jewelry and watch repair concession. He earned enough money to begin buying and selling small buildings in Rochester. That led to the acquisition of trailer parks and shopping malls, and his portfolio eventually included fast-food restaurants, nursing homes, and an oil and gas company.
Glazer was famously frugal. According to a 2012 story in Ireland's Sunday Business Post, his thriftiness surfaced in the early 1990s during an interview with a potential ghostwriter of his autobiography, which never materialized. Glazer pointed to a pair of trousers that belonged to one of his sons.
"You see those pants?" Glazer asked. "Those are Hugo Boss pants. They cost $200. My pants? They came from JC Penney, $19.95 on sale. And you know something? I like my pants more than he likes his pants. You know why? Because I remember the day when I didn't have $20 to spend on pants."
In the latest Forbes magazine ranking of richest Americans, Glazer and his family were ranked 102nd with an estimated net worth of $4.5 billion.
The reclusive Glazer, who primarily lived in Palm Beach, Fla., and almost never granted interviews, bought the Buccaneers in 1995 for a then-record $192 million, taking over a hapless franchise that had lost 70% of its games since its inception in 1976.
The Buccaneers would go on to win the Super Bowl in the 2002 season, although they won the NFC South just twice in the 11 seasons that followed.
The bearded, redheaded Glazer stayed so far behind the scenes that when he was handed the Lombardi Trophy after his team won the Super Bowl, he was introduced as "Marcus Glazer" by Green Bay Packers Hall of Famer Willie Davis.
In 2005, Glazer engineered a highly leveraged and controversial buyout of Manchester United, which was $1 billion in debt. He had begun accumulating shares of the soccer franchise two years earlier. From the start, he was unpopular with the team's fans, who embraced the slogan: "Love United, Hate Glazer." That sentiment reached a crescendo in 2009, when star Cristiano Ronaldo was transferred to Real Madrid for a record $132 million. The move was widely believed to be made so United could make its debt payments.
Glazer reportedly never set foot inside Old Trafford, the team's stadium.
In 2012, the Glazers began selling shares of Manchester United on the New York Stock Exchange to restore the franchise to financial health. The Glazer family retained a 90% share in United, split equally among Glazer's six children.
Glazer served on the NFL's finance committee and was a key player in bringing Super Bowls to the Tampa area.
He is survived by his wife, Linda; five sons; a daughter; and 14 grandchildren. The family will retain control of the Buccaneers "for generations to come," the team said in a statement.