Kroenke opts to try to buy Rams

ST. LOUIS -- Missouri billionaire Stan Kroenke has decided to exercise his matching rights and try to purchase the remaining 60 percent share of the St. Louis Rams.

Kroenke made the announcement late Monday, the deadline for him to make this decision.

Illinois businessman Shahid Khan reached agreement with owners Chip Rosenbloom and his sister, Lucia Rodriguez, on Feb. 11 to buy the team, and Kroenke had 60 days to decide whether to keep his 40 percent share, sell it, or exercise his right to buy the team outright.

The announcement that Kroenke intended to buy the team was a surprise.

"We are pleased to announce that we have exercised our right to purchase the remaining interest in the St. Louis Rams football team under the terms of our Partnership Agreement," Kroenke said in a statement. "We have enjoyed our involvement in the National Football League since our original expansion efforts beginning in 1993 and our subsequent 15-year partnership with the Rams.

"We look forward to working with the Rosenbloom family and the NFL. We will respect the league and its processes in our efforts to complete this transaction," Kroenke said.

Chip Rosenbloom, the team chairman, had little to say about the bid.

"We and our advisors will work with the National Football League as we move forward with the objective of completing a transaction for the sale of our interest in the Rams," Rosenbloom said in a statement.

Complicating the issue is Kroenke's ownership of the NBA's Denver Nuggets and the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. NFL rules prohibit cross-ownership. Kroenke also owns 29.9 percent of Arsenal, putting him within 10 shares of the threshold that would force him to make a takeover bid for the English Premier League club.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined comment, saying the matter was between Kroenke and the current owners. There was no answer at a phone listing for Khan, 55, president of an Urbana, Ill.-based auto parts maker, Flex-N-Gate.

Forbes magazine has estimated the value of the Rams franchise at $913 million. The exact amount of Khan's bid was not announced, but was believed to be closer to $750 million. Kroenke's statement did not say what his offer for the team will be.

Kroenke, 62, has been 40 percent owner of the Rams since Georgia Frontiere brought the team to St. Louis from Los Angeles in 1995. Frontiere died in January 2008 and her children inherited the team.

The sale was expected almost from the moment Frontiere died. Her children have other interests and no ties to St. Louis.

The Rams have struggled on the field for years -- they're 6-42 over the past three seasons, and their 1-15 record in 2009 was the worst in the NFL. After years of sellouts, crowds at the Edward Jones Dome have thinned as the play has worsened.

An ambivalent fan base, combined with the desire for a team in Los Angeles and other markets, led to speculation about the future of the Rams in St. Louis. That was especially concerning for a city that lost the Cardinals to Arizona after the 1987 season.

But Kroenke's desire to become sole owner would seem to make a move less likely.

Kroenke, of Columbia in mid-Missouri, made his fortune in real estate development. His wife, Anne, is a Wal-Mart heir.

A group headed by St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts was also interested in buying the Rams. Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was initially part of the Checketts group but was dropped in October after negative publicity about his involvement.

A loophole in the Rams' lease allows them to move after the 2014 season if the Edward Jones Dome is not deemed among the top quarter of all NFL stadiums by various measurements. The dome is fast becoming one of the league's older venues, and getting it into the top quarter seems unlikely.

The city's convention commission spent $30 million upgrading the facility before last season, installing new scoreboards and video boards and upgrading club seating. Next season they're due for a new grass field that can be stored and used in subsequent seasons, a major upgrade.