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Kroenke's Rams deal hot topic at NFL owners meeting

Sunday, August 22, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 1:46 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 23, 2010
Stan Kroenke of Columbia is a real estate developer and the owner or part-owner of several sports teams, including the NFL's St. Louis Rams, the NBA's Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and the English Premier League soccer club Arsenal.

ST. LOUIS — Stan Kroenke has never been much for publicity, maintaining a low profile as the minority owner of the St. Louis Rams for the past 15 years.

Now the 63-year-old billionaire from Columbia is making waves, challenging the NFL's rule against cross ownership with a bid to take full control of the team in a move that would give him at least a majority stake in a fifth professional sports franchise.

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Enos Stanley Kroenke, named after Cardinals baseball Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter, has earned the nickname Silent Stanley.

He rarely uses his office on the second floor at the Rams Park complex and there have been no Kroenke sightings during training camp, no appearances to gauge the downtrodden team's progress.

"Stan's been focused on his end of the process, and I've been focused on here," second-year coach Steve Spagnuolo said.

The chain of command calls for Kroenke to relay any concerns to the brother-sister ownership team of Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez.

"With Chip, on any major decision or anything we're going to do, he's very hands on," general manager Billy Devaney said.

The owners meet in Atlanta on Wednesday to discuss expanding the season and issues with the collective bargaining agreement. But the big topic in the one-day meeting will be the bid by Kroenke to purchase the remaining 60 percent of the team, and add to his franchise collection.

None of the principals involved in the sale has said much beyond prepared statements the past several months. The price has widely been reported at $750 million, no matter that the franchise has been staggeringly inept with a 6-42 record the past three years.

In a statement issued in June, Kroenke said he planned to keep ownership of the NBA's Denver Nuggets and NHL's Colorado Avalanche in the family if he gains full control of the Rams. The most likely way he would dodge the NFL's rule against owning more than one professional franchise is by handing off his other franchises to family members.

The Nuggets are restructuring the front office after declining to extend the contracts of executives Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman. That could mean a larger role for Kroenke's son Josh, a former Missouri basketball player.

Maybe a much larger role. Such a transfer would have to be approved by the NBA board of governors.

Rosenbloom and Rodriguez inherited the franchise from the late Georgia Frontiere and are selling because of inheritance tax issues.

They also are keeping really quiet.

"I really can't comment on anything right now," Rosenbloom said in an e-mail. "I am happy to talk with you on other subjects, though."

Asked to discuss the team's progress in training camp, Rosenbloom said that would have to wait until closer to the regular season.

Kroenke made his move earlier this year, exercising matching rights and trumping a bid by Urbana, Ill., businessman Shahid Khan in February to purchase the 60 percent share.

Kroenke's application figures to slide through the finance committee, though a stumbling block could be his reported proposal to purchase the team in two installments. That plan would leave current ownership with a large share of the team for the time being.

After the finance committee, the proposal would face a vote by the owners. They will focus on the specifics of the offer and Kroenke's ability to handle a fifth franchise.

Though the Rams weren't very active in the free agency, picking up only a handful of lower-tier players, the contract bestowed on No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford demonstrated a lack of financial constraints. The six-year, $78 million contract included an NFL-record $50 million in guarantees.

"It's business as usual," Devaney said. "We're in a football cocoon and this doesn't affect us whatsoever.

"Ownership has been great, every step of the way."

Kroenke has had success with the other teams he owns.

Although the Nuggets were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this spring, they reached the Western Conference final in 2009. The Avalanche reached the playoffs after finishing last in the Western Conference the previous season. Kroenke also owns 29.9 percent of English Premier League soccer club Arsenal, as wells as Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids.

Kroenke's days of being a quiet but effective player in St. Louis date to 1993, when he was principle investor and reluctant front man for a St. Louis group that unsuccessfully sought an expansion franchise.

Two years later, he was approved as minority owner of the Rams when owners approved the franchise move from the West Coast to St. Louis. Kroenke paid $60 million for a 30 percent share of a franchise that had endured five consecutive losing seasons.

"Isn't this spectacular? It's unbelievable," a smiling Kroenke said after that triumphant meeting in a Dallas suburb.

Really, it was just the beginning.


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