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Intrigue behind Rams sale

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  • Intrigue behind Rams sale

    Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz

    Let's get down to business. It's time to update the attempted sale of the St. Louis Rams. The process has been secretive for the most part. Obviously, there's a lot that I don't know.

    But after making several rounds of phone calls this week and talking to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation, I'll share what I know.

    And I'll also discuss the ongoing effort of Blues chairman Dave Checketts, who is attempting to put together a consortium to purchase the 60 percent of the Rams owned by Chip Rosenbloom and his sister, Lucia Rodriguez.

    Checketts is carrying the football on behalf of St. Louis. That's a positive, but there is a downside, and later in the column I'll explain why.

    Let's get started:

    No sale is imminent.

    Several out-of-town interests are pursuing the franchise. And indications are that the potential buyers have communicated a desire to keep the Rams in St. Louis. For example, one potential buyer lives out of state but has business interests here and is thought to be pro-St. Louis.

    That said, no one in St. Louis should take anything for granted. Buyers know that Rosenbloom and Rodriguez want the Rams to remain here. And if a buyer has other motives, it makes no sense to telegraph those intentions to Rosenbloom. Or to the Goldman Sachs investment firm, which is handling sale inquiries.

    Last Sunday on the CBS pregame show, Charley Casserly identified a new potential buyer: Texas-based banking billionaire Gerald J. Ford. It's true. It's also early. Ford, 65, is a promising candidate. But he hasn't been vetted yet.

    Casserly also suggested that Rosenbloom and Rodriguez are under pressure to sell before the end of the year, because of estate-tax issues related to the death of their mother, Georgia Frontiere. A source with intimate knowledge of the Rosenbloom-Rodriguez tax issues disputes that.
    Between now and October 2013, Rosenbloom and Rodriguez are obligated to pay interest on the estate-tax bill. They are not required to begin making payments on the principal until Oct. 2013. At that point, the pressure to sell the team would increase, but the source stressed it would still be possible for Rosenbloom and Rodriguez to keep the Rams. An expected increase in the capital-gains tax (in 2010 or 2011) doesn't help Rosenbloom and Rodriguez, but the source insists that isn't an important factor in the sale timetable.

    Stan Kroenke, who owns 40 percent of the Rams, has remained silent. To buy the available 60 percent, Kroenke would have to convince the NFL to change the rules prohibiting cross ownership. (He owns the NBA Denver Nuggets and NHL Colorado Avalanche.) Kroenke is a key to this. Because if he agrees to stay on as the 40 percent partner, the new owner would have to buy only 60 percent of the sale price instead of all 100 percent. If Kroenke stays on, his presence could be a big boost to local efforts. A St. Louis group wouldn't have to raise as much money. But if Kroenke cashes out his 40 percent, the financial challenge becomes more difficult.

    Kroenke recently purchased more ownership shares of the Arsenal soccer club in the English Premier League. Kroenke now owns the largest share (29.6 percent) of Arsenal, and if he can increase his stake to 29.9 percent, he'd be entitled to purchase the remaining shares. It's possible that Kroenke could sell his piece of the Rams to raise funds for an Arsenal takeover.

    Again: Kroenke is impossible to read.

    According to media reports in Salt Lake City, Checketts is selling 49 pecent of his MLS franchise, Real Salt Lake. The transaction could raise as much as $50 million. Checketts' spokesman says the sale is unrelated to the pursuit of the Rams. But the timing is certainly curious, given that Checketts has been raising money in his quest for the Rams.

    Checketts is clearly the point man for St. Louis.

    No other groups or individuals from the St. Louis community have stepped forward to make a separate bid on the Rams. Basically, everyone else is remaining on the sideline to give Checketts a chance to make his play.

    Checketts' appeal is obvious. He's done outstanding work in reviving the Blues. He's committed to keeping the Rams in St. Louis. He has established a good working relationship with area politicians and business leaders, and that's a substantial plus in dealing with stadium issues that loom in the future. The Rams likely will be able to vacate their lease at the Edward Jones Dome after the 2014 season. So it's important for the Rams to have a patient owner familiar with our terrain, and an owner who is determined to work with local leaders to achieve solutions.

    But my sources tell me that the Checketts group is still short on the necessary money. Suppose Checketts can't pull this off? That's a potentially significant problem, because there is no other so-called St. Louis group. And that leaves the city vulnerable.

    Checketts wisely staked out an early position as the best local bet to emerge with the Rams, but his presence may be causing other St. Louis ownership players to defer and stay out of the game.

    Putting all of this in Checketts' hands is a risk. Because if he can't get it done, then the Rams most likely will be sold to an owner who won't be as committed to working through problems and keeping the team here.

    If wealthy individuals in the St. Louis area want to take a run at the Rams, then it's time to leave the sideline and take a shot at it.

Related Topics


  • HUbison
    Checketts solidifies Rams bid
    by HUbison
    Checketts solidifies Rams bid

    By Bernie Miklasz

    As Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch reported recently, the sale of the Rams has been narrowed down to a list of three potential buyers.

    And that hasn't changed, according to multiple sources close to Rams managing ownership partner Chip Rosenbloom.

    Rosenbloom would like to make a decision within a month or two. Rosenbloom and his sister, Lucia Rodriguez, prefer to sell their combined 60 percent share but could opt to hang on to the franchise rather than settle for an unsatisfactory offer.

    One of the three potential buyers is a group of investors organized by St. Louis Blues Chairman Dave Checketts.

    Multiple sources tell me that another group has strong ties to Toronto, which should concern those who want to see the Rams remain in St. Louis.

    As for the third potential buyer ... candidly, I've been unable to nail down that part. But I know it isn't anyone from St. Louis. And I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the bidder is based in Chicago.

    I hope that Checketts prevails in this auction, or the Rams could be in play for a move after the 2014 season.

    Checketts is our best hope to secure a long-term future for the Rams in St. Louis.

    Or to put it another way: Checketts IS the St. Louis offer.

    I trust Checketts to work with area politicians and business and community leaders to solve the looming stadium problem.

    Checketts has made good progress in his Rams efforts. According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation, Checketts has partnered with a formidable money man in Texas billionaire Gerald J. Ford, who was ranked No. 289 on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans last fall. Forbes estimated Ford's worth at $1.35 billion.

    Ford, 65, made his fortune by buying and selling banks. He's friends with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Ford donated $20 million to SMU in 1997 to help the school build a new football stadium on campus. Indeed, Gerald J. Ford Stadium opened in 2000.

    This is a significant development. For the Checketts bid to comply with NFL ownership rules, one member of his group must control a 30 percent share of the franchise. And multiple sources tell me that Ford is locked in as the 30 percent owner. Ford doesn't want to run the franchise on a daily basis and would leave that to Checketts.

    Ford's addition (at 30 percent) is only part of the equation.

    To cover another 30 percent (including his own percentage) Checketts has been busy lining up additional investors from the St. Louis community.

    The list includes prominent and recognizable names. The investors aren't yet willing to come forward to publicly confirm...
    -02-01-2010, 06:23 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    St. Louis Rams Owners Weighing 3 Offers
    by r8rh8rmike
    St. Louis Rams owners weighing 3 offers

    By Jim Thomas

    St. Louis Rams owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez are closing in on a decision to accept one of three offers to purchase the team or walk away from the bidders and keep the franchise, league sources told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday.

    A decision could be reached before the NFL draft in late April, not because of any kind of firm deadline, but simply to avoid uncertainty surrounding the team and its future entering the 2010 season.

    All three offers, described as "acceptable" by the sources, are comparable to what the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise recently sold for which was in the range of total franchise value of $720 million to $800 million.

    The only known bid for the team is from a group of investors headed by St. Louis Blues hockey chairman Dave Checketts. The identity of the other two bidders remains unknown, although one was a relative late-comer in the process.

    The three bidders are committed in varying degrees to keeping the franchise in St. Louis, and that may have an impact on any sale decision.

    Rosenbloom and Rodriguez own 60 percent of the franchise, which they inherited from their late mother, Georgia Frontiere. Frontiere died on Jan. 18, 2008 two years ago Monday after a long battle with breast cancer. It is that 60 percent of the team that is for sale.

    Stan Kroenke owns the other 40 percent of the team.

    But at least one of the bids is for the full 100 percent of the team, in which case Kroenke's share would be bought out as well. But if Rosenbloom and Rodriguez end up selling only their 60 percent of the team, Kroenke could potentially scuttle the deal by saying he wants to "cash out," or sell his share of the team as well. If that's the case, the 60 percent investor may not have enough money to buy the full franchise.

    Those close to Rosenbloom say he has yet to get any indication from Kroenke on what he will do, although there have been signals from the Kroenke camp that he will simply hold his 40 percent share of the team if Rosenbloom and Rodriguez sell their 60 percent.

    Kroenke also has matching rights on any outside offers for the team. But under current NFL cross-ownership rules, he would not be allowed to exercise that right as long as he owns majority shares of the Denver Nuggets NBA team and the Colorado Avalanche NHL franchise. Kroenke also owns 29.9 percent of the English soccer club Arsenal, a team valued at $1.2 billion.

    Some clarity could be added to the issue this week. The Rams' brain trust is meeting in Los Angeles today and Thursday for the team's annual end-of-season summit meeting. Kroenke is expected to attend at least one day's worth of the meetings. If Kroenke indicates that he's on board with any...
    -01-19-2010, 09:48 PM
  • MauiRam
    St. Louis Rams owner prefers Stan Kroenke take over team ..
    by MauiRam


    IRVING, TEXAS In many ways, it has been a long 2 1/2 years for Chip Rosenbloom as controlling owner of the Rams.

    "Emotionally, there's so many things that go into it," Rosenbloom told the Post-Dispatch. "The issue of whether we would hold onto the team, selling the team, the timing of that, all of those issues are from a family that has been in the sports business since 1953 11 years before I was born.

    "It's part of the fabric of our family's lives. Emotionally, it's been very tough. And that's been one of the keys in finding the right buyer."

    Rosenbloom and sister Lucia Rodriguez inherited 60 percent of the team when their mother, Georgia Frontiere, died of breast cancer on Jan. 18, 2008.

    Between Rosenbloom's father, Carroll Rosenbloom, and his mother, the family has owned an NFL franchise first the Colts, then the Rams for 57 years.

    But largely because of estate tax issues, Rosenbloom and Rodriguez can no longer make a go of it as NFL owners. And after a long, tedious process characterized at times by frustration and surprise developments, the goal line is in sight.

    Although Rosenbloom wouldn't speak to it, progress was made at the just completed NFL owners meetings in the Dallas area. If all goes well, team owners could approve Missouri businessman Stan Kroenke's bid to purchase controlling interest in the team as early as August.

    In his first extensive interview since late January, Rosenbloom talked about the sales process and why Kroenke is a good choice as the Rams' next owner, and paid homage to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan.

    "It's been interesting," Rosenbloom said. "We're tackling a lot of issues here. We're trying to find the right buyer for us, the right buyer for the NFL, the right buyer for St. Louis. And do it in a way that respects the process."

    In a move that surprised many, Kroenke exercised his right of first refusal in matching a sales agreement reached by Khan to purchase Rosenbloom's and Rodriguez's 60 percent share.

    "Stan has been a great partner, a friend to our family for 15 years," Rosenbloom said. "It's his right to do what he chose to do here. We're happy that we have such a good friend in Stan and that St. Louis has such a good friend in Stan."

    In no way, Rosenbloom pointed out, should that be construed as a sign of disrespect to Khan.

    "I have great admiration for Shad Khan, and I consider Shad a friend," Rosenbloom said.

    Nonetheless, Rosenbloom would be gratified to see Kroenke take over the team because in a sense Kroenke would continue the family legacy in the NFL. He joined Frontiere as a business partner in 1995 when he agreed to purchase 40 percent of the team, a transaction that ensured...
    -05-27-2010, 09:23 AM
  • RamWraith
    If Rams ever call, Checketts will listen
    by RamWraith
    By Bernie Miklasz
    Thursday, Oct. 09 2008
    Dave Checketts, owner of the St. Louis Rams?

    When Checketts, the Blues' CEO, made a guest appearance on my KSLG (1380 AM)
    radio show Wednesday, I asked him if he'd be interested in purchasing the Rams.

    Rams Chairman Chip Rosenbloom has said he's in no hurry to sell and would like
    to keep the team. But if Rosenbloom had to sell, he told me he would try to
    place the franchise in good hands and wants the new owner to be committed to
    keeping the team in St. Louis.

    Could Checketts be that candidate?

    If given an opportunity, would Checketts step up and attempt to make a deal
    with Rosenbloom?

    "The answer is absolutely," Checketts said. "We love St. Louis. It's a great
    NFL franchise. There are some real hurdles ahead with it. I'm more interested
    in doing the right thing for St. Louis than I am necessarily being the owner of
    the Rams.

    "I think Chip's having discussions with a lot of different people. I don't
    think he's decided exactly what he wants to do, but if and when he decides to
    sell I hope I get a call."

    As Checketts indicated, there would be obstacles.

    The Rams' sale price would probably fall between $800 million and $1 billion.
    If Stan Kroenke retained his 40 percent ownership share, the new majority
    partner would have to fund 60 percent of the purchase price. Yes, a new owner
    could recruit partners, but under NFL rules the lead owner must control at
    least 30 percent of the franchise.

    Though Checketts' personal worth is unclear, it's doubtful that he has the kind
    of financial clout required to own an NFL franchise. In theory, Checketts could
    put together a group headed by a "silent" majority partner a big-money
    investor who has little interest in being the front man for the franchise.

    And in that setup, Checketts would fit as the chief executive. He's operated
    successful sports businesses, including the NBA Utah Jazz and New York Knicks.
    Under Checketts' leadership, the Blues are quickly rebuilding their fan base
    and popularity. When Checketts ran Madison Square Garden in New York, the arena
    prospered. Checketts also started up the profitable MSG sports network.

    NFL rules barring cross ownership wouldn't apply to Checketts. He owns a pro
    soccer franchise, in Utah, Real Salt Lake. But since there is no NFL team in
    Salt Lake City, Checketts is cleared to be an NFL owner in St. Louis. It's the
    same reason Paul Allen can own the NFL Seattle Seahawks and the NBA Portland
    Trailblazers; the Blazers do not compete with an NFL team in Portland.

    Kroenke, however, has a problem. The NFL won't...
    -10-09-2008, 04:27 AM
  • MauiRam
    Rosenbloom confident on Rams sale ..
    by MauiRam
    BY JIM THOMAS Posted: Tuesday, August 3, 2010 12:08 am

    With a scheduled vote three weeks away on Stan Kroenke's bid to purchase the St. Louis Rams, team owner Chip Rosenbloom remains confident the deal will get done.

    "We're optimistic that the transaction will be supported by the owners and the league," Rosenbloom told the Post-Dispatch on Monday. "Our relationship with Stan has been and continues to be excellent. We're finalizing documents and expect it to be voted on Aug. 25."

    Rosenbloom's comments come on the heels of a SportsBusiness Journal report that some members of the NFL finance committee were upset at Kroenke's two-tiered approach to purchasing the Rams.

    Kroenke exercised a right of first refusal in April, in essence deciding to match the bid by Illinois businessman Shahid Khan to purchase the 60 percent of the Rams currently up for sale by Rosenbloom and sister Lucia Rodriguez.

    It's believed that Khan's offer was not a single-payment offer. In other words, Khan would pay part of the franchise purchase price initially, and then buy the rest of Rosenbloom's and Rodriguez's 60 percent share at a later date.

    Kroenke "inherited" those terms when matching Khan's offer. But realistically, the terms probably have been tweaked over the course of discussions and meetings involving Kroenke, Rosenbloom and the NFL.

    It's not that Kroenke couldn't pay cash in one installment if he had to. In fact, he paid cash for his current 40 percent share of the Rams when the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995.

    But on one level, it seems puzzling if members of the finance committee indeed are against a two-tiered payment method by Kroenke because there is precedence for such purchases. Most recently, Arthur Blank bought the Atlanta Falcons in two installments, as did Steve Bisciotti with the Baltimore Ravens.

    The NFL is scheduled to vote on Kroenke's bid Aug. 25 in Atlanta.

    Through a spokesman, Kroenke declined to comment.
    -08-03-2010, 09:51 AM