Now, for his handpicked successor, Adam Silver (No. 18), Stern leaves contracts with ESPN and Turner Sports through 2015--16 as well as the sport's next big rivalry: Last year's Heat-Thunder, LeBron-Durant Finals drew the best ratings since '04. With the NFL, MLB and most NCAA rights locked in, Silver will have leverage for a huge increase, meaning that Stern's legacy will stand long after his time atop the hardwood throne ends.
3 PHILIP ANSCHUTZ
[BILLIONAIRE][TEAM/LEAGUE OWNER][WORLD POWER][HERMIT][70-PLUS][FALLING]
In all likelihood it will be the blockbuster sports transaction of 2013. Anschutz, a Denver billionaire, announced last fall that, at 73, he's ready to sell AEG, the sports and entertainment division of his oil and gas business. AEG owns the Los Angeles Kings and Galaxy as well as a minority share in the Lakers; it owns or operates dozens of sports arenas and venues, from the O[subscript 2] in London to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn; and, maybe most important, it has the inside track on building the football stadium in downtown L.A. that will house an NFL team (or teams).
Almost pathologically reserved, Anschutz is happy to let AEG president Tim Leiweke serve as the front man. But it's Anschutz who will ultimately decide the buyer—Larry Ellison (No. 20) and Patrick Soon-Shiong, the wealthiest Angeleno, are the reported front-runners—and Anschutz who will decide the price (likely more than $10 billion). In turn he will decide plenty about the future of sports, especially in L.A., the No. 2 broadcast market in the States.
4 JOHN SKIPPER
He presides over a $42 billion empire, the engine that makes the Disney mouse roar: Last year his company took in $6 billion through subscription fees and almost $3 billion in ad revenue. Much of Skipper's power comes from the value of live sports (a.k.a., the last DVR-proof broadcasting), and the 57-year-old has wisely set up ESPN for the future as competition from Fox and NBC heats up. Last year the network extended its rights deals with both the NFL ($1.9 billion per season for eight years) and MLB ($700 million annually for eight years) while signing long-term renewals with the biggest cable companies. In college football ESPN remains the dominant TV player, televising all the BCS playoff and title games through the 2026 season (at $610 million a year).