John York and his wife Denise DeBartolo York are Co-Chairs of the San Francisco 49ers. John is officially listed as the owner of the franchise as of 1999, but this is largely due to his wife’s family and their vast wealth. With the Super Bowl approaching a lot of the attention is focused on the respective owners of the competing franchises. NFL fans across the country have gotten rather accustomed to seeing Bob Kraft in the owner’s luxury box during the big game. This year there will be a couple of fresh faces including Kansas City Chiefs’ owner Clark Hunt and the aforementioned John York and his wife Denise on the Niners side. Not many people are familiar with John York so here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about him.
1. He’s Very Smart
John York is a retired cancer research pathologist. In 1975, he received a doctorate in blood pathology at the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University in Chicago. He spent years specializing in the diagnosis of lymphoma and leukemia during post-doctoral work. Eventually, he DeYor Laboratories in Boardman, Ohio. In 1993, he sold it to Corning, Inc.
2. College Sweetheart
John attended the University of Notre Dame for his undergraduate work. His wife Denise DeBartolo York attended the adjacent women’s college, St. Mary’s College of Indiana. Denise is the daughter of construction magnate Edward J. DeBartolo. John is accomplished into his own right, but he married into a billion-dollar enterprise that included sports.
3. Giddy Up
After John sold DeYor Laboratories he joined his wife’s family enterprise. John spent years as Senior Vice President/Director of Racing Operations for the DeBartolo Corporation. While in this role John built programs designed to enhance the fan experience and raise the profile of thoroughbred racing.
4. Winning Mentality
The DeBartolo family also owns the Pittsburgh Penguins. The franchise was purchased in 1978 and Denise, John’s wife, was established as owner and president. She was in charge when the Pens won the Stanley Cup in 1990-1991. In doing do, she became the third woman to serve as President of a Stanley Cup winning team. The year before that Edward DeBartolo purchased the 49ers and over the course of four decades with the family in charge they have won 5 Super Bowls and have made 44 playoff appearances .
5. Family First
It is well-documented that John and his wife Denise are “family-first” people. Their eldest son Jed, 39, is the CEO and operating head of the San Francisco 49ers. He became the team president and operating head in 2008, which if you do the math meant he was only 28-29 years old at the time. Jed’s ride to the Super Bowl hasn’t been a smooth one as he had issues with former coach Jim Harbaugh and missed the mark with hiring Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly. He did, however, hit the nail on the head with his hiring of John Lynch as GM and Kyle Shanahan as head coach.
6. Family Tragedy
The Yorks have four children, Jed, mentioned about, Tony and two daughters Jenna and Mara. Sadly, at the age of 35-years old Tony commit suicide on December 7, 2018. Tony was an entrepreneur and philanthropist. He founded the company Koda, which focused on helping young people prepare for their first real job. He also supported many non-profit organizations during his life.
John and his family are shining stars when it comes to helping others. They participate in many charities and non-profit organizations. They are able to touch lives directly and also through the San Francisco 49ers, for they have built an extensive community outreach program. John has donated well over $10 million to various charities and also academia. Notably he’s given $1.5 million help to establish an Endowed Chair in Pathology and an Endowed Chief Residency in Pathology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He also partnered with Jerry Jones to make a $10 million donation to the Catholic High School for Boys in Arkansas
8. Losing His Father
John grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma. His father, John Clement York was a dentist and sadly died when John was only 15-years old. He spent the rest of his childhood in Little Rock, Arkansas attending school before heading to the University of Notre Dame.
9. Active in the NFL
York is very active with the NFL. At present he is the Chairman of the Health and Safety Advisory Committee, which was established in 2011. He is also part of the league’s Audit and International Committee. York is responsible for the 49ers playing the first ever game outside the USA in Mexico at the Azteca Stadium vs. the Arizona Cardinals. When you are watching the games being played in London every year, John York is just one of many to thank for that.
10. Game Ball
One of the great moments of the 2019 NFL season happened after the San Francisco 49ers defeated the New Orleans on December 8, 2019. The game itself was probably one of the best games all year, but afterwards the team presented John and his family with the game ball to honor their son, Tony, who killed himself a year earlier. John gave an emotional speech to the team and thanked everyone involved. Truly a touching moment that not many people got to hear about