Posted Aug 25 2010 10:03PM
ATLANTA -- Silent Stanley will get his team.
He's just got to give up two others.
The NFL unanimously approved a proposal for Stan Kroenke to take over as majority owner of the St. Louis Rams on Wednesday, as long as he turns over control of his NBA and NHL teams to his son.
Kroenke, a 63-year-old Missouri billionaire, first became involved with bringing pro football back to St. Louis in 1993 with a failed attempt to land an expansion franchise. When the Rams moved from Los Angeles two years later, he joined the Rosenbloom family as a minority owner, increasing his stake to 40 percent in 1997.
Now, for a reported $750 million, the entire team will be his.
"I'm a 17-year overnight success,'' Kroenke quipped.
But first he had to deal with NFL rules against ownership of major league franchises in other pro football cities. He owns the NBA's Denver Nuggets and NHL's Colorado Avalanche.
Kroenke agreed to turn over operational and financial control of those teams to 30-year-old son, Josh, by the end of the year. He must give up his majority stake in the teams by December 2014.
Kroenke marked the occasion by making a rare appearance before the media. He has steadfastly maintained a low profile as minority owner of the Rams, earning the nickname Silent Stanley.
"I just have a really busy life,'' he said. "I like the members of the press. I really do. I almost went to journalism school. I just don't have the time. It takes a lot of time to build those relationships, to nurture them.''
He scoffed as his reputation for being publicity shy.
"I'm not trying to offend anyone,'' Kroenke said. "I know there's this wonderful little picture of Silent Stan. I guess it makes good copy. But it just isn't so.''
The NFL is confident Kroenke will follow through on his pledge to divest himself of control in the Nuggets and Avalanche, which are only part of his impressive collection of professional sports teams.
"He has tremendous experience in other sports, which is a plus,'' commissioner Roger Goodell said. "One of the issues is we want owners who focus on football. That's what Stan will be doing. He'll be focusing more on football.''
Kroenke also owns the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer and the Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League. In addition, he is the largest shareholder in Arsenal of the English Premier League.
"He's a quiet man who's very effective in what he does,'' said Bob Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots. "We learned about his other businesses and what he does, how he handles things overseas. He just does things the right way, and I know he wants to win.''
The Rams haven't done much winning lately. Kroenke is taking control of a former Super Bowl champion that has gone 6-42 over the last three years - including an NFL-worst 1-15 a year ago.
He plans to run the Rams with the same behind-the-scenes style he had as minority owner. But there will be no mistake who's the boss.
"I don't think it's a mystery the way we're running our other clubs,'' Kroenke said. "I like to know what's going on; I like to be involved. But the number one thing is finding the right people, putting them in place and trying to help them out.''
After years of sellouts, the Rams have fallen on hard times. The crowds have thinned considerably at the 15-year-old Edward Jones Dome, leading to speculation that St. Louis could lose its NFL team for the second time. The Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1987, and the NFL has made no secret that it would like to get a franchise back in Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest market.
Kroenke's purchase of the team would appear to make the Rams less likely to move.
"I've been around St. Louis and Missouri a major portion of my life,'' he said. "I've never had any desire to lead the charge out of St. Louis. That's not why we're here. We're here to work very hard and be successful in St. Louis.''
Then, he added, "Now, the realistic part of that. I live to be competitive. To be competitive, you have to have revenue. We're going to work really hard to have a model that produces revenue where we can be consistently competitive. Anyone can be a contender in the pro sports business every so often. The real challenge is to be competitive every year.''
The Rams' brother-sister ownership team of Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez inherited the Rams from the late Georgia Frontiere. They decided to sell because of inheritance tax issues and had a bid from Illinois businessman Shahid Khan to purchase their 60 percent share in February.
Kroenke stepped in, exercising his right to buy the rest of the team with a matching bid.
Khan issued a statement praising the man who scuttled his bid for the Rams.
"This adventure didn't turn out the way I had hoped,'' Khan said, "but it was otherwise a worthwhile experience in every respect and I'll always be a fan of the St. Louis Rams.''
Josh Kroenke is a former Missouri basketball player. He'll serve as governor of the NHL team and set the budget, but team president Pierre Lacroix will retain control over personnel decisions.
Given his background, the younger Kroenke will likely have a larger role with the Nuggets, who are restructuring their front office after parting with executives Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman.
One of the Nuggets' biggest priorities is deciding what to do with Carmelo Anthony, who so far has declined to accept a three-year, $65 million contract extension.
Stan Kroenke declined to comment on Anthony's status at the NFL owners meeting, which was also expected to include talks on an 18-game schedule and a new collective bargaining agreement with the players.
"I'm here to talk about the Rams,'' he said. "We'll talk about Carmelo some other time. I'm sure Josh will have a lot of good answers for you on that.''
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