John W. Henry long ago earned his fortune -- and a reputation as one of the nation's premier players in the global futures markets. But in 2004, Henry may have achieved immortality by leading the Boston Red Sox to their first World Championship since 1918, reversing the most fabled curse in sports. This triumph was due to more than the inspired play of a team that rallied from 0-3 in the American League Championship Series to beat the New York Yankees.
Henry, 55, set the stage for victory by aggressively boosting revenues after he and his partners -- including TV producer Tom Werner and veteran baseball exec Larry Lucchino -- bought the Red Sox for a record $690 million in early 2002. They made the most of Fenway Park, the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball, by squeezing in more seats and then charging the highest prices for home games, all of which sold out. At the same time, they started broadcasting home games in high definition on their 80%-owned cable sports network, New England Sports Network -- helping it routinely win in regional prime-time ratings.
All of this turned the Sox into baseball's second-most-lucrative franchise and gave it the financial muscle to take on the Yankees, who opened the season with a record $184 million payroll. The Sox were second, at $127 million.
Henry -- a numbers genius, whose proprietary futures-trading system consistently produces double-digit returns -- closed the gap with sabermetrics. That's a system for mining baseball stats to find undervalued players while avoiding long contracts for aging stars -- such as pitcher Pedro Martinez -- whose performance is likely to decline. Henry built baseball's most effective team but won't settle for one championship. After ending an 86-year drought, he's aiming for a dynasty.