Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The Big Question: What's with Kroenke?
By Mike Sando ESPN.com
What does Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke's surprising bid for full ownership mean for the team and the NFL?
AP Photo/Nati HarnikWill the NFL allow Stan Kroenke, who already owns NBA and NHL teams in Denver, take a majority stake in the Rams?
The most logical theory, at least to me, is that Kroenke knows much more than those shocked by his move to match Shahid Khan's offer for the 60 percent of the team Kroenke does not yet own.
Kroenke wouldn't make such a move without feeling very good about his chances.
All parties knew Kroenke had legal right to match Khan's offer within 60 days. The masses assumed Kroenke wouldn't match because he already owned the NBA and NHL teams in Denver, making it tough to justify majority NFL ownership in another town while still complying with NFL rules on cross-ownership.
You know what they say about assumptions, even reasonable ones.
The NFL has tweaked its cross-ownership rules to accommodate owners in the past.
Rules changes made in 1997 allowed Wayne Huizenga to continue as the Dolphins' owner even though he owned baseball's Marlins and hockey's Panthers in the same market. At the time, rules prevented owning majority stakes in more than one pro franchise, regardless of market. Huizenga had purchased the Dolphins in 1994, promising to sell the team if the cross-ownership rules didn't change by 1996.
"That provision later was extended a year because more than eight owners opposed changing the rule," the Baltimore Sun reported in March 1997.
The changes accommodating Huizenga also allowed Paul Allen to purchase the Seahawks even though he already owned the NBA's Trail Blazers in nearby Portland.
As the Sun story noted, the cross-ownership rules changed when then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue convinced the Vikings, Bucs and Saints to go along. The Redskins, Lions, Bears, Bengals and Bills voted against the changes, with the Raiders abstaining.
"The key to getting the rule changed was Allen's promise to keep the team in Seattle if he gets stadium funding," the Sun's story noted. "Even the opponents said they had no problem with Huizenga or Allen; they just thought it was better for the league to have its owners concentrating on football."
The NFL probably has nothing personally against Kroenke, either. Allowing him to purchase full control of the Rams without divesting stakes in the Nuggets and Avalanche would require more dramatic changes to the rules. The Broncos could have obvious concerns because Kroenke owns pro franchises competing for sports dollars in their market. Other teams could voice similar fears on principle.
But if the NFL prefers Kroenke to Khan by a wide enough margin, the league could presumably find a way to welcome him. Kroenke could seemingly make specific concessions to concerned parties as part of a bid to gain approval.