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Kroenke completes his bid to buy Rams
Rams sold

Kroenke completes his bid to buy Rams

Longtime part-owner wins approval from NFL, celebrates his '17-year overnight success.

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ATLANTA • There was no drama and next to no fanfare. It took NFL owners less than an hour Wednesday morning to unanimously approve Stan Kroenke as the new majority owner of the St. Louis Rams.

It has been a goal of Kroenke's to own an NFL team since 1993, when he became lead investor in the ill-fated effort to bring an expansion team to St. Louis. On Wednesday, 17 years later, he finally crossed the goal line.

"It's exciting to be a 17-year overnight success," Kroenke joked.

He is buying the 60 percent share of the team held by Chip Rosenbloom and sister Lucia Rodriguez. But it's a two-tiered purchase. Kroenke is buying half of that 60 percent now and will buy the rest at a later date.

The purchase is based on an overall franchise value of $750 million. So it will cost Kroenke $450 million to buy the 60 percent.

Complicating the sale process was Kroenke's ownership of the Denver Nuggets basketball team and Colorado Avalanche hockey team. To meet NFL cross-ownership rules, Kroenke must divest himself of those franchises, but the league is giving him time to make that happen.

By the end of this year, he must end day-to-day involvement with the Nuggets and Avalanche, although he will provide operating revenue for both teams in an account. But he is transferring control over both franchises — and how to use those funds — to his son, Josh Kroenke.

Kroenke has until December 2014 to be fully compliant with NFL cross-ownership rules. That gives him four years to work out a financially efficient way to actually sell the Nuggets and Avalanche to Josh Kroenke, or another family member. Those familiar with the sale process say Kroenke isn't entirely sure how he's going to do that at this point but is considering several options.

However he gets there, by December 2014, Kroenke no longer can have any financial involvement with the Nuggets or Avalanche.

"We spent an awful lot of time on this over the last few months," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "Stan's a man of his word, and I believe all parties are going to make sure it comes off the way we've all discussed it."

In the interim, the league wants Kroenke's sports attention focused on the Rams and the NFL.

"Obviously, all of us know and respect Stan," Goodell said. "The good news is, he's been an NFL owner, and he's been around the NFL since 1993 when I first met him in the expansion process."

When the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995, Kroenke became a minority owner of the team. (He bumped his original 30 percent stake to 40 percent a couple of years later.)

"But he's had tremendous experience in other sports, which I think is a plus," Goodell said. "One of the issues that we always focus on is having our owners focus on football. And that's what Stan will be doing. He'll be focused more on football. We think that's a positive for the NFL, and most importantly for the fans of St. Louis."

But to some observers, Kroenke's purchase also raises concerns about the long-term viability of the Rams franchise in St. Louis. With a stadium lease issue on the horizon, a worst-case situation could have the Rams free to leave St. Louis after the 2014 season.

Although he's a Missouri native who spent much of his adult life in Columbia, Mo., Kroenke has far-flung business interests. He has spent a lot of time in Denver because of his ownership of the Nuggets and Avalanche, he's the largest shareholder in the Arsenal soccer team in England, and he has a home in Malibu, Calif.

While stopping short of saying he would never, ever, move the Rams, Kroenke reiterated Wednesday his commitment to St. Louis.

"I've been around St. Louis and Missouri a major portion of my life," he said. "We worked hard to bring the (Rams) to St. Louis. We worked hard on the expansion process in 1993. We weren't successful but stayed in there and ultimately got an NFL team back into St. Louis.

"So it's not our desire to ever lead the charge out of St. Louis. So if that's sort of the implication, that's not why we're here. We're here to work hard and be very successful in St. Louis.

"Now, the realistic part of that, so everybody knows, we like to be competitive. To be competitive, you have to have revenue. And so we're going to work really hard to have a model that produces revenue where we can be consistently competitive. Anybody can be competitive in the pro sports business every so often. But the real challenge is to be competitive every year."

In his decade-long tenure as owner of the Nuggets and Avalanche, those teams have been nearly perennial playoff qualifiers. In St. Louis, as the Rams' fortunes dipped on the field, so have attendance and revenue. In the early years in St. Louis after the move from Southern California 15 years ago, the Rams were among the league's most profitable teams. But they are now in the bottom third of the league in terms of annual revenue.

That business reality contributed to the decision by Rosenbloom and Rodriguez to sell. So did looming estate tax issues associated with their inheritance of 60 percent of the club following the death of their mother, Georgia Frontiere, in January 2008.

"It's a bittersweet day," Rosenbloom said. But he added, "I think everyone is walking away from this deal happy, including the league."

Once the cross-ownership details were ironed out, there seemed to be no doubt that Kroenke would be approved, a fact underscored by last week's unanimous recommendation for approval by the NFL finance committee.

"Stan will be a great owner," Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said. "He's everything you're looking for. Stan wants to win. He's won with the hockey team, with the basketball team in Denver.

"And at the same time, he's committed to the (NFL), and he's a great partner. It's a good day for the league. These things don't happen very often. It's really important to have 32 really good owners in the room. I think that serves the league really well."

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