Does Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke have the team's best interests in mind?
A subscription-required report Monday in the Sports Business Journal suggested Kroenke was more interested in leveraging his 40 percent stake in the Rams than taking over full ownership of the team.
Reporter Daniel Kaplan cited sources saying Kroenke told Rams bidder Shahid Khan he would decline to exercise his option to purchase full ownership of the team in exchange for a "mid-to-high eight-figure fee." Kroenke would have remained onboard as 40 percent owner in such a scenario. Khan declined, Kaplan reported, and Kroenke then exercised his option to trump the bid from Khan.
The report seemed to run counter to what a source told Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that Kroenke "fully intends to work with the NFL to find a way for Kroenke to become the team’s 100 percent owner."
The reporting from Kaplan and Miklasz isn't necessarily conflicting. The businessman in Kroenke could have simply been exploring his options before committing to buying full ownership of the team. That's his right and arguably his duty as a businessman.
This wasn't the first time Kaplan had reported Rams-related ownership news running counter to conventional wisdom. Kaplan previously cited sources saying the NFL had concerns about debt levels associated with Khan's bid to buy out 60 percent owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez.
That news and the conventional wisdom -- that Khan' financial footing appeared sound -- weren't necessarily at odds, either. The NFL could have had specific concerns. Khan could have been on solid footing overall.
My take? We're operating without enough information to fully assess the balance between Kroenke's interests and the extent to which those interests benefit the Rams.
Don Elliman, described by The New York Times as chief operating officer for the state of Colorado and former president of Kroenke Sports Enterprises, has suggested Kroenke isn't much for minority ownership. He wants full control. Elliman put it this way for a Times profile on Kroenke: "There was once a great line by one of George Steinbrenner’s partners that there’s nothing so limited as being a limited partner. A lot of people get into sports and wake up later and realize, 'I'm along for the ride; I'm beholden to the other guy.' That’s not Stan's nature."
It's not much to go on.
The timing of this ownership uncertainty is undoubtedly inconvenient for the Rams as they approach the 2010 NFL draft holding the top overall choice and hoping to win over fans. But the business of changing ownership is bigger than the business of the draft. Assurances from Kroenke would certainly help. The absence of those assurances naturally leads to skepticism, which is warranted, but if this process has taught us anything, it's that we shouldn't assume too much too soon.