Arbitrators award Rams $2 million in costs over Dome fight

2013-04-10T05:50:00Z 2013-12-06T14:47:05Z Arbitrators award Rams $2 million in costs over Dome fightBy David Hunn dhunn@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8121 stltoday.com

ST. LOUIS • The total cost of keeping the Rams in town is unclear.

But the cost for the legal fight to keep the team at the Edward Jones Dome?

About $4 million.

Arbitrators recently ruled that the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission must pay $2 million in legal expenses incurred by the Rams as the team fought over renovations to the Dome.

The Rams were asking for improvements the CVC estimated would cost at least $700 million. The CVC, which runs the Dome, argued that less than $200 million in updates were needed. Arbitrators ruled this winter in the team’s favor, and, late last month, that the CVC must cover the Rams’ legal expenses.

The CVC has estimated that its own arbitration expenses will total about $2 million more, commission officials said Tuesday, putting the total public cost at nearly $4 million.

“If the Rams asked me for PR advice, given their balance sheet, I would say, ‘Why don’t we just eat our own expenses, and move on to the next level?’” said Mike Jones, chief policy adviser to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, who appoints some CVC commissioners. “But they’re not asking me for advice.

“Obviously, it’s a sum we would rather not pay,” Jones said.

The CVC is funded in part by a regional hotel tax.

The Rams asked the arbitrators to award the team nearly $3.5 million in costs. The arbitrators sided with the CVC in several places, however, denying reimbursement for expert witness fees and “duplicative” services performed by a second law firm, Irell & Manella, out of Los Angeles.

Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer, declined to comment, as did Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe, president of the CVC.

Meanwhile, a separate public agency is continuing to search for a way to keep the Rams at the Dome, despite reports that the Securities & Exchange Commission is investigating the agency’s relationship with Goldman Sachs.

In February, the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, which owns the Dome, hired Goldman Sachs, the multinational investment banking firm, to advise the authority.

The contract pays Goldman $20,000 a month, plus no more than $25,000 in expenses.

Goldman was charged with laying out “existing and alternative methods for maintaining or renovating current facilities, and/or constructing new facilities sufficient to retain a National Football League franchise” in the St. Louis area, according to the authority’s resolution to hire the firm.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the SEC is looking into contracts between securities firms and municipal agencies, including the one between Goldman and the Dome Authority. Federal law restricts securities firms from giving financial advice to municipalities and also underwriting certain bonds, because the firms could essentially be advising on their own hiring.

The contract between Goldman and the Dome Authority calls Goldman a “financial advisor” — but also says the firm may seek to underwrite future bonds.

The SEC declined to comment.

Greg Carey, a managing director at Goldman, phoned in to a Dome Authority meeting Tuesday afternoon, listed his credentials, boasted of stadium deals across the country, but did not address the SEC inquiry.

But Authority Chairman Jim Shrewsbury said after the meeting that the authority hired Goldman for the firm’s expertise, not to underwrite bonds.

“They’re certainly the premier advisors in this field,” Shrewsbury said.

Besides, Shrewsbury said, the Dome Authority would only consider issuing new bonds if the Rams committed to staying. St. Louis, St. Louis County and the state are still paying a combined $24 million a year toward the bonds taken out to build the Dome.

Jones, Dooley’s aide, said the county needs to be kept in the loop about Goldman’s work.

“If they are half as smart as they are expensive, they should make a call out here to Clayton if they want a deal,” he said. “If you want us in at the landing, I’d better be in the plane when it takes off.”

Lisa Brown of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

David Hunn covers taxpayer spending on regional cultural institutions. Follow him on Twitter @davidhunn.

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