ATLANTA — The NFL unanimously approved a proposal for Columbia billionaire Stan Kroenke to take over as majority owner of the St. Louis Rams on Wednesday, as long as he turns over control of his NBA and NHL teams to his son.
Kroenke, who owns 40 percent of the Rams, has exercised an option to buy the remaining 60 percent of the team from the Rosenbloom family for a reported $750 million.
But first he had to deal with NFL rules against ownership of major league franchises in other pro football cities. He already owns two Denver teams, the NBA's Nuggets and NHL's Colorado Avalanche.
NFL owners approved Kroenke's deal on condition that he turn over operational and financial control of the Nuggets and Avalanche to his son, Josh, by the end of the year. He must give up his majority stake in the teams by December 2014.
"Obviously, all of us know and respect Stan," commissioner Roger Goodell said. "He's been a terrific owner in the NFL, and we're confident he will continue to be a great owner."
Kroenke, 63, first became involved with bringing pro football back to St. Louis in 1993 with a failed attempt to land an expansion franchise. When the Rams moved from Los Angeles two years later, he joined the Rosenbloom family as a minority owner, increasing his stake to 40 percent in 1997.
"Getting a unanimous vote on anything in the modern world, I'm pretty excited about it," Kroenke said. "Seventeen years, wow. I'm a 17-year overnight success."
The Rams' brother-sister ownership team of Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez inherited the franchise from the late Georgia Frontiere. They decided to sell because of inheritance tax issues and had a bid from Urbana, Ill., businessman Shahid Khan to purchase their 60 percent share in February.
Kroenke stepped in, exercising his right to buy the rest of the team with a matching bid.
"Mr. Kroenke has agreed to a level of involvement that's consistent with the cross-ownership policy in that he will not have any involvement" in the two Denver teams, said Eric Grubman, the NFL's executive vice president of business operations. "He will not be making operational or financial decisions of the clubs."
Khan issued a statement praising the man who scuttled his bid for the Rams.
"This adventure didn't turn out the way I had hoped, but it was otherwise a worthwhile experience in every respect, and I'll always be a fan of the St. Louis Rams," Khan said.
Kroenke, making a rare appearance before the media, said he looks forward to running the Rams with the same behind-the-scenes style he had in Denver. He has a big task in front of him, taking control of a former Super Bowl champion that has gone 6-42 over the last three years — including an NFL-worst 1-15 last season.
"I don't think it's a mystery the way we're running our other clubs. Connect the dots," Kroenke said. "I like to know what's going on; I like to be involved. But the number one thing is finding the right people, putting them in place and trying to help them out."
Kroenke has built a collection of professional sports teams. He also owns the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer and the Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League. In addition, he is the largest shareholder in Arsenal of the English Premier League.
After years of sellouts, the Rams have fallen on hard times. The crowds have thinned considerably at the 15-year-old Edward Jones Dome, leading to speculation that St. Louis could lose its NFL team for the second time. The Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1987, and the NFL has made no secret that it would like to get a franchise back in Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest market.
Kroenke's purchase of the team would appear to make the Rams less likely to move.
"I've been around St. Louis and Missouri a major portion of my life," he said. "I've never had any desire to lead the charge out of St. Louis. That's not why we're here. We're here to work very hard and be successful in St. Louis."
He added: "Now, the realistic part of that. I live to be competitive. To be competitive, you have to have revenue. We're going to work really hard to have a model that produces revenue where we can be consistently competitive. Anyone can be a contender in the pro sports business every so often. The real challenge is to be competitive every year."
Kroenke's 30-year-old son is a former Missouri basketball player. He'll serve as governor of the NHL team and set the budget, but team president Pierre Lacroix will retain control over personnel decisions.
Given his background, Josh Kroenke will likely have a larger role with the Nuggets, who are restructuring their front office after declining to extend the contracts of executives Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman.
One of the Nuggets' biggest priorities is deciding what to do with Carmelo Anthony, who so far has declined to accept a three-year, $65 million contract extension.
Stan Kroenke declined to comment on Anthony's status at the NFL owners meeting, which was also expected to include talks on an 18-game schedule and a new collective bargaining agreement with the players.
"I'm here to talk about the Rams," he said. "We'll talk about Carmelo some other time. I'm sure Josh will have a lot of good answers for you on that."