Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, known for possessing the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets and venturing into the NFL to buy the Minnesota Vikings, died Sunday at his home in San Antonio at age 95, his family announced Monday in a statement. He was one of the most prominent entrepreneurs and philanthropists in Texas.
“Red was a visionary businessman who touched many lives and affected our community in immeasurable ways. But to us he was always, first of all, “father” or “pop,” the statement reiterates. “We regret the loss of an icon from Texas.”
McCombs bought the Dallas Chaparrals of the ABA and moved the team to San Antonio for the 1973-74 season when it was renamed. In 1976, he defended the Spurs’ integration into the NBA as part of the ABA-NBA merger.
Hall of Fame George “The Iceman” Gervin contributed greatly to the team’s success in 1982, after which McCombs sold his team shares. Gervin talked to the Houston Chronicle about the impact of McCombs.
“I can say Red was a friend,” the Hall of Fame Gervin told the Houston Chronicle on Monday. “The impact he’s had on this town is unbelievable. We always say, ‘Everything red touches turns to gold.’ It’s a reality. Your vision for this city, your vision for the Spurs.
“We call them Spurs for the city he grew up in [Spr, Texas. That says a lot about your influence on the Spurs.”
McCombs resold the Spurs in 1993.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver called McCombs a driving force in the creation of the modern NBA.”
“He was an innovator and a smart businessman who never got away from taking risks,” Silver said in a statement.
To another extent that improved his record of sports franchise purchase and arrest for a relatively short period of time, McCombs acquired the Vikings in 1998 for $246 million. He owned the NFL team until 2005, when he was frustrated with efforts to secure a new stadium and sold the team to the Wilf family for $600 million. During his tenure, the Vikings made it twice to the NFC Championship.
“Red incorporated his famous phrase “”Purple Pride”” and continued to be a Viking fan after passing the torch to the Wilf family in 2005,” the team said in a statement. “Although Red had a clear passion for sports, it was clear that the thing he loved most was his children and grandchildren. Our thoughts and prayers are with the McCombs family during this difficult time.”
McCombs also played an important role in the return of Formula One to the United States. He was one of the largest investors in the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, the first F1 racing circuit designed for specific purposes in the United States and hosted the American Grand Prix since 2012.
The Texas circuit and the annual grand prize were crucial to the efforts of the global racing series to establish and increase a significant presence in Formula One United States will run three times in the country in 2023: Austin, Miami and the Las Vegas Grand Prix launch.
McCombs owned over 400 companies during his lifetime, according to the McCombs Enterprises website, and the McCombs School of Business of the University of Texas at Austin is named after him.
After working for and then opening the first of its many car dealerships, McCombs later established McCombs Energy, an oil and gas company, and operated real estate and land development companies, cattle ranches and breeding activities. He was also co-founder of Clear Channel Communications, which later became iHeartCommunications, Inc.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called McCombs inspiration and “a true Texas Titan in sports, media, business and philanthropy.”
“Red’s determination, success and positive spirit will live forever as long as he embodies a relentless and passionate approach to life, relationships and community,” Jones said.
Charline McCombs, Red’s wife, died in December 2019. He survives the daughters Lynda McCombs, Marsha Shields and Connie McNab, as well as eight grandchildren and 11 biscuits.