Kroenke keeps quiet about Rams' future

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
1:19
PM PT
St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is a smart business man. The real estate mogul, worth $3.2 billion according to Forbes, didn’t create his sports empire by making hallow promises or sticking his foot in his mouth in public.

That is why Kroenke made no assurances about the future of the Rams in St. Louis while he introduced Jeff Fisher as the new coach of the team on Tuesday.

The man who owns the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, MLS’s Colorado Rapids and the English Premier League’s Arsenal Football Club is a master negotiator and he is preparing for what will be a lengthy negotiation with the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission.

The St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission has until Feb. 1 to give the Rams a preliminary proposal for how it plans to give the Edward Jones Dome "top-tier" status, which basically means it has to rank in the top quarter of NFL stadiums when it comes to modern amenities such as suites, club seats and lounges. Edward Jones Dome opened in 1995 and has quickly gone from one of the league's newest stadiums to one of the oldest after 21 new stadiums were built for 22 teams during that time.

The Rams can either agree to the offer a month later or reject it and make a counteroffer by May 1, which is the most likely scenario. The commission can then either agree to the counteroffer by June 1 or reject it and go to arbitration, which again seems like the direction this thing is heading toward. If such a scenario unfolds, the lease could be voided and the Rams could rent the Dome on a year-to-year basis or choose to move elsewhere.

The bottom line is the Rams can get out of their lease agreement with the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission after the 2014 season if the Edward Jones Dome doesn't rank in the top quarter of NFL stadiums. It seems anything outside of a new stadium would make that impossible and getting public funding for such an expensive undertaking in St. Louis, which is still paying off the original construction debt of the Dome, is highly unlikely.

An interesting subplot in all of this is that when Kroenke became the majority owner of the St. Louis Rams in August 2010 for $750 million, after being a minority owner since 1995, he agreed to turn over operational and financial control of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche to his 30-year-old son, Josh, and give up his majority stake in the teams by December 2014. NFL rules prevent owners from owning major league franchises in other pro football cities.

Kroenke is a longtime friend and business partner of fellow Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, who owns AEG and is the man behind Farmers Field, the $1.1 billion proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles. Would Kroenke sell a majority stake in the Rams to Anschutz instead of giving up his majority stake in the Nuggets and Avalanche and then make a play down the road to buy the Broncos?

It is just one of many scenarios and questions hovering around St. Louis and the ongoing saga of the NFL’s return to Los Angeles.

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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