Red McCombs, ex-owner of Spurs, Nuggets and Vikings, dies

Billy Joe "Red" McCombs, the Texas billionaire who was the onetime owner of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets as well as the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, died Sunday at his home in San Antonio at the age of 95, his family announced Monday in a statement.

"Red was a visionary entrepreneur who touched many lives and impacted our community in immeasurable ways," the statement read. "But to us he was always, first and foremost, 'Dad' or 'Poppop.' We mourn the loss of a Texas icon."

He bought the ABA's Dallas Chaparrals and relocated the team -- henceforth known as the Spurs -- to San Antonio for the 1973-74 season.

McCombs was instrumental in getting the Spurs into the NBA as part of the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.

After the team rose to prominence with superstar George "The Iceman" Gervin, McCombs sold his share of the Spurs in 1982 to buy the Nuggets, whom he then sold in 1985 to rebuy his share of the Spurs in 1986. He then bought the team outright from its other investors in 1988.

"I can say Red [was] a friend," Hall of Famer Gervin told the Houston Chronicle on Monday. "The impact he had on this city is unbelievable. We always say, 'Everything Red touches turns to gold.' It's a reality. His vision for this city, his vision for the Spurs.

"We named them [the Spurs] after the city he grew up in [Spur, Texas]. So that tells you a lot about his influence on the Spurs."

McCombs again sold the Spurs in 1993.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver called McCombs "a driving force in creating the modern NBA."

"He was an innovator and savvy entrepreneur who never shied away from taking risks," Silver said in a statement.

In yet another move that furthered his record of purchasing sports franchises and holding them for a relatively short period, McCombs purchased the Vikings in 1998 for $246 million. He owned the NFL team until 2005, when he was frustrated by efforts to secure a new stadium and sold the team to the Wilf family for $600 million. During his tenure, the Vikings twice reached the NFC Championship Game.

"Red embodied his famous 'Purple Pride' phrase and remained a staunch Vikings fan after passing the torch to the Wilf family in 2005," the team said in a statement. "While Red had a clear passion for sports, it was evident what he loved the most were his children and grandchildren. Our thoughts and prayers are with the McCombs family during this difficult time."

McCombs also played a big role in Formula One's return to the United States. He was one of the largest investors in the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, the first purpose-built F1 racetrack in the U.S. and host of the U.S. Grand Prix since 2012.

The Texas circuit and annual grand prix were pivotal for the global racing series' efforts to establish and grow a significant presence in the U.S. Formula One will race three times in the country in 2023: in Austin, Miami and the debut of the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

McCombs owned more than 400 businesses during his lifetime, according to the McCombs Enterprises website, and the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin is named for him.

After working for and then later opening the first of his many car dealerships, McCombs later established McCombs Energy, an oil and gas industry company, and operated real estate and land development companies, cattle ranches and breeding operations. He also was a co-founder of Clear Channel Communications, which later became iHeartCommunications, Inc.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called McCombs an inspiration and "a true Texas titan across sports, media, business and philanthropy.''

"Red's determination, accomplishments and positive spirit will live forever as he embodied a relentless and passionate approach to life, relationships and community,'' Jones said.

Charline McCombs, Red's wife, died in December 2019. He is survived by daughters Lynda McCombs, Marsha Shields and Connie McNab, as well as eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.