He was 81.
The Texans said McNair died peacefully, surrounded by family, including his wife, Janice.
One of the NFL's most influential owners, McNair had battled both leukemia and squamous cell carcinoma in recent years before his death. The team did not immediately release a cause of death.
When Houston lost the Oilers to Tennessee after the 1996 season, McNair made it his mission to return the NFL to the city. He formed Houston NFL Holdings in 1998, and on Oct. 6, 1999 he was awarded the 32nd NFL franchise.
The Texans began play in 2002. After several difficult building years as an expansion team, they won their first AFC South title and first playoff berth in 2011. They also won the division title a year later when they went a franchise-best 12-4. Both years they lost in the divisional round of the playoffs.
McNair's influence brought two Super Bowls the team's home of NRG Stadium - one in 2004 and the other in 2017.
On Friday, McNair's head coach, Bill O'Brien, gave his statement on the life his owner:
"Mr. McNair was an amazing man who made tremendous contributions to the NFL and the City of Houston. He was a very caring, thoughtful and passionate individual. As much as he cared about winning, I think the thing I will remember most about Mr. McNair is the way he cared about the players. I know how much giving back meant to him and his loyalty and generosity to the City of Houston and our community will never be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers are with Janice and the McNair Family."
McNair is survived by his wife, sons, Cal and Cary, daughters, Ruth and Melissa, 15 grandchildren and two great grandsons, the team said.
It is with deep sadness that we announce Houston Texans Founder, Senior Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and philanthropist, Robert C. McNair passed away peacefully in Houston today with his loving wife, Janice, and his family by his side. pic.twitter.com/7J9PWoxKZv— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) November 23, 2018
The Associated Press contributed to this report.