Will Rams cash in under Kroenke? ..
BY BERNIE MIKLASZ Sunday, September 26, 2010 12:20 am
The National Football League is the private club for some of the wealthiest people in the world. According to the latest Forbes listing of the 400 richest people in America, 11 own NFL franchises.
Money doesn't guarantee success on the field. A few of the moguls have won Super Bowls, including New England's Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones in Dallas, Tampa Bay's Malcom Glazer. Others on the Forbes list repeatedly have come up short in their desperate pursuit of the ring.
One is Washington's Daniel Synder, who has had more head coaches (seven) than winning seasons (three) in 11 seasons as owner. Snyder hopes his football fortunes will change now that he's installed a legitimate general manager (Bruce Allen) and the high-profile head coach, Mike Shanahan.
Some of the NFL's old-school clubs the Rooney family in Pittsburgh for example have won multiple Super Bowls without the benefit of the massive individual wealth enjoyed by the NFL's Forbes 400 owners. The Rooneys know how to set up a successful football shop, with the focus on scouting and drafting. Their specialty is winning.
Snyder and the Redskins will be at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday to face Stan Kroenke's St. Louis Rams. Snyder has been at this since 1999. And Kroenke is the NFL's newest billionaire owner.
Kroenke is ranked No. 130 on the Forbes list with an estimated worth of $2.7 billion. His wife, Ann Walton Kroenke, came in at No. 98 with $3.2 billion.
That's impressive. A low-revenue franchise that's bottomed out with 44 losses in its last 50 games can certainly use a strong foundation.
Still, that doesn't answer the most important question: What kind of owner will Stan Kroenke be for the Rams? Is Kroenke destined to become as stymied as Snyder, or as revered as a Rooney?
Kroenke does have a Super Bowl on his résumé; he was Georgia Frontiere's 40 percent ownership partner when the unforgettable 1999 Rams went from last place to NFL champions. But Kroenke is in charge now, so the circumstances are dramatically different.
Kroenke has become a symbol of hope for suffering Rams fans who crave strong, stable leadership to provide a new direction for their lost franchise.
Friday night, I conducted an informal survey on my online forum (Bernie's Press Box) at STLtoday.com. I posed a simple query: What do you want from a Kroenke ownership?
The responses were thoughtful and sincere. Here's a rundown of the most popular themes:
Be genuine in trying to solve the stadium issue to ensure the team's future in St. Louis.
Be in it to win it and fight for Rams fans.
Buy some impact free agents to help overcome the many years of incompetent drafting.
Be a visible presence at Rams Park and in the community; fans want to know that Kroenke is in touch and connected.
Provide a clear direction and vision for the franchise.
Impose urgency at Rams Park; hold GM Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo accountable.
Don't be a micro-managing meddler; hire the very best football man you can find and empower him to put together a winning operation.
All of the ideas have merit.
I believe Kroenke wants to do what's right. I don't believe he will tolerate losing. I believe he'll run a classy organization. And that he will try to win.
But I also have concerns.
Specifically: Can Kroenke give his undivided attention to the Rams?
This is a busy man.
An unbelievably busy man.
Kroenke owns the NBA Denver Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and is the largest shareholder of the Arsenal soccer club in the English Premier League. He also owns the MLS Colorado Rapids and their soccer stadium.
Kroenke has agreed to eventually turn over his NBA and NHL franchises to family members to comply with the NFL's ownership rules.
Away from sports venues, Kroenke's THF Realty develops and operates shopping centers across the nation. He owns the Paramount Theater in Denver, a television company, a ticket service, Canada's largest cattle ranch and two notable wineries. According to media reports there are 5,000 names on a waiting list for Kroenke's Screaming Eagle wine. Hey, if you REALLY need to have some, go ahead and purchase a 1.5 liter bottle of 2004 Screaming Eagle Cabernet through a dealer for a bargain price of $12,000.
So where do the Rams fit in?
In recent weeks the Kroenkes led by son Josh, the Nuggets' new team president fired the team's GM and hired a new one. The Kroenkes are involved in a high-pressure contract game with Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony, who turned down a $65 million offer. According to the latest reports, Anthony soon may be traded to the New Jersey Nets as part of a multi-team deal.
Stan Kroenke remains on the NBA owners' Labor Relations Committee, which hopes to avoid a lockout next summer. He attended NBA meetings in New York earlier this week.
The shift in the Nuggets' ownership and management apparently caused dysfunction and prompted this disturbing observation from the team's star point guard:
"I've never seen nothing like that before," Chauncey Billups told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.com. "Nobody knew who was what there. Nobody knew who to ask a question. I've never seen uncertainty upstairs like that in this league."
We can only hope that the Rams have a smoother operation under Kroenke. Organizational chaos has been one of the Rams' biggest problems; Kroenke must alleviate it. In Kroenke's defense, the Nuggets and the Avs have regularly qualified for the playoffs during his ownership run.
It's difficult to know if Kroenke can, or will, truly lock in on the incredibly difficult challenge of restoring the Rams. At some point he'll have to dive into the stadium issue, which won't go away. The Rams will likely be able to escape their stadium lease after the 2014 season.
We'll just have to wait and see what Stan's plan is.
It's too soon to assume Kroenke will be the ideal owner. But it is also too soon, obviously, to assume he'll be a disappointing owner too busy with other endeavors to make the Rams into a winner.
The next time you're sipping on some of that Screaming Eagle cabernet, remember this: When Kroenke purchased the coveted Napa Valley winery in 2006, his first major decision was to dispose of $2 million worth of wine. Kroenke was displeased with its quality; the wine was poured down the drain.
I know this: The wine couldn't have been as bad as a 6-44 football team.
So yes, I'd say there is hope for Rams fans.
Re: Will Rams cash in under Kroenke? ..
The Denver Nuggets had one the top 5 payrolls at one point I believe, well into the luxury tax.
He is an owner willing to pay for results, which is the way you want it.
No results = scrap it/unload payroll/try again
Good philosophy, better than a Synder who answers not winning with more paying.
The Nuggets targeted "big name" free agents in the past as well, although the results didn't turn out favorably.