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Kroenke's silence might say a lot ..
Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
What a strange time to be a Rams fan in St. Louis. We're eight days away from the NFL draft, and the Rams hold the first choice. They're probably going to choose talented Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, a good guy with an accurate arm who can become the new face of the franchise and a symbol of hope.
After three seasons of 6-42 football, this should be a time of looking ahead to better, happier days. But as usual, Rams fans are left to wonder what's going on. The glimpse into the future is hazy. An unsettled, uncertain ownership situation has put the franchise in turmoil. And that's unfortunate.
The concern is that the football operation is limited and unable to spend money and make moves because of the uncertainty at the very top of the franchise. If Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez are selling their 60 percent to Stan Kroenke or Shahid Khan, then haven't they already checked out?
"Nothing could be further from the truth," said Kevin Demoff, the Rams' chief operating officer. "We're making football decisions based on what's best for the Rams in the short term and the long term. We presented an offseason game plan to Chip and Lucia, and they agreed to it. Nothing has changed. There are no constraints. They are actively involved."
The purpose here isn't to beat up on Rosenbloom and Rodriguez. They've made a genuine attempt to give the franchise a fresh start by installing new football leadership. And they have improved the dysfunctional culture at Rams Park.
Moreover, the Rosenblooms were determined to sell to pro-St. Louis interests. They thought they had a good buyer in Khan, the central Illinois businessman who lives within an easy drive from St. Louis. After entering into a purchase agreement with the Rosenblooms, Khan immediately conveyed his pro-St. Louis sentiment and indicated that he wanted to keep the team here.
But Rams minority ownership partner Stan Kroenke cut off Khan's bid by exercising his contractual right to buy the 60 percent owned by Chip and Lucia. Kroenke must persuade the NFL owners to change their cross-ownership rules to accommodate him.
And what if Kroenke succeeds? It's widely assumed that Kroenke would be pro-St. Louis with the Rams. He's a Missouri native. A multi-billionaire and highly successful real-estate developer, Kroenke does business throughout the state. He has family here. He has a residence in Columbia, Mo. And he helped bring the Rams here from Los Angeles in '95.
That said, something struck me as odd the other night when Kroenke disclosed his intentions to buy the Rosenbloom-Rodriguez shares. In his statement, Kroenke said nothing about wanting to keep the team in St. Louis. There was no expression of thanks offered to Rams fans for their continued support.
Instead, Kroenke said, "We have enjoyed our involvement in the National Football League," and said he "look(s) forward to working with the Rosenbloom family and the NFL."
Not a word about enjoying his involvement with a St. Louis-based NFL franchise. Not a word about looking forward to working with St. Louis-area leaders about preserving the Rams' future in our city. Interesting.
Unless there is a compromise agreement, the Rams almost certainly will be free to vacate the Edward Jones Dome after the 2014 season.
I've read a bunch of these statements in my 30 years as a sportswriter, and one thing I have learned is this: You can find a lot in these statements based on what you DON'T find in them. These statements are carefully worded and closely reviewed by attorneys and Page Ranking specialists. There's usually a code.
In that context, what Kroenke didn't say is more telling than what he did say. In my opinion, he declined to offer a diplomatic gesture to St. Louis for a reason. If he gets control of the Rams, a stadium-lease battle is looming. And it could be a fierce and ugly battle.
So if you were thinking that Kroenke was going to be a soft touch, forget about it.
That's why, in my opinion, Kroenke isn't even bothering with the surface niceties. That's why he avoided making a pro-St. Louis message in his statement.
If Kroenke gets the Rams, he has all of the leverage on the stadium issue. And he isn't going to give that up. And Kroenke isn't going to mislead anyone by throwing a bouquet to St. Louis. The stadium lease is an important business matter, the Rams are a substantial business holding, and Kroenke is a shrewd and tough businessman.
And Kroenke is staking out an early position.
Smart man. No wonder he's worth $3 billion.
I'm not saying Kroenke is scheming to move the Rams to Los Angeles in 2015 — though at this point I would rule nothing out. Until Kroenke comes out and states unequivocally that he'll keep the team here, we shouldn't assume anything.
But we can expect Kroenke to play hardball on the stadium issue here.
It's interesting to contrast the St. Louis situation to the scene in Denver. Kroenke may try to circumvent the NFL cross-ownership rules by transferring ownership of the NBA Denver Nuggets and NHL Colorado Avalanche. Some in the media are suggesting Kroenke might sell the Denver teams to comply with NFL guidelines.
In response, Paul Andrews, an executive with Kroenke Sports Enterprises, said this in a statement:
"Mr. Kroenke and his family remain fully committed to Denver and each KSE-owned property."
So Kroenke made it clear that he's fully committed to Denver.
And what about being fully committed to St. Louis?
Kroenke is still Silent Stanley on that one.
And if he wants to clear things up, we'll be happy to print his comments.
Re: Kroenke's silence might say a lot ..
So Bernie thinks that Kroenke might move the team to L.A. because he didn't say he's keeping the team in St. Louis.
Only one problem with that theory...
NFL says Kroenke isn't asking league to waive its cross-ownership rules
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (CP) – 18 hours ago
DENVER — Billionaire Stan Kroenke isn't asking the NFL to waive its cross-ownership rules in his bid to purchase the remaining 60 per cent of the St. Louis Rams.
League spokesman Greg Aiello told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Kroenke "is not seeking a waiver of the rule. He has always said he would comply with our rules."
That means Kroenke will have to surrender his principal stake in the NBA's Denver Nuggets and the NHL's Colorado Avalanche to become majority owner of the Rams. Among the possibilities is handing control of those teams over to his 29-year-old son, Josh, a Nuggets executive.
Kroenke, who has owned 40 per cent of the Rams since their move to St. Louis from Los Angeles in 1995, has declined to comment about his decision to buy the NFL team outright.
Kroenke Sports Enterprises released a statement saying the 62-year-old owner "and his family remain fully committed to Denver and each KSE-owned property."
There is only way Kroenke can buy the Rams and comply with the cross-ownership rule: divest his interest in the Denver franchises.
And he's already given a potential clue as to how he plans to do that: he and "his family" remain committed to Denver.
As many have speculated, it seems likely that Kroenke's plan is to transfer ownership of the Denver clubs to a family member (his son, most likely). The NFL will have to decide then whether that is good enough to meet the letter of the rule (if not its "spirit").
Of course, Bernie would probably say that Kroenke is going to divest is interest in the Denver franchises AND move the team.
Maybe he'll move the team to Denver and merge it with the Broncos. We can be the Denver Ramcos! Yeah, that's the ticket!
Last edited by AvengerRam; -04-15-2010 at 12:44 PM.
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