A company with ties to Stan Kroenke, the billionaire owner of the St. Louis Rams, bought 60 acres (24 hectares) of land in the Los Angeles area, where investors have been trying to lure a National Football League team.
The Kroenke Organizations declined to say if it’s considering moving the Rams to the site in Inglewood, about 12 miles (19 kilometers) southwest of downtown Los Angeles, or use the possibility as leverage in negotiations over improvements to Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
“As real estate developers, the Kroenke Organizations are involved in numerous real estate deals across the country and North America,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “While we can confirm media reports that we recently purchased land in Inglewood, as a private company we don’t typically discuss our plans for commercial or residential investments. We have yet to decide what we are going to do with the property but we will look at all options.”
The Rams played in the Los Angeles area from 1946 to 1995, when they moved to St. Louis, the same year the Raiders left the second-biggest U.S. city for Oakland, California.
There is a clause in the team’s lease that says Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis must be a “first-tier” stadium, in the top quarter of the league’s 31 venues, by 2015, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. If it does not meet that requirement, the team is allowed to void its lease, or change its contract to a year-to-year basis, the newspaper said.
Kroenke has a net worth of $4.9 billion, ranking him No. 298 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He can’t move a team without approval from the NFL and other owners.
Los Angeles “is a great market to leave open in an effort to extract subsidies from other home team markets where teams might be threatening to move,” said David Carter, director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. “These owners can posture. They can do a lot of different things, but ultimately it’s not going to be their unilateral decision to relocate a franchise to this market.”
Kroenke is the founder and owner of two real estate companies that have developed about 100 retail centers with more than 20 million square feet (1.9 million square meters). He’s married to Ann Walton Kroenke, whose family founded Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
“Stan is a very large developer on a global basis,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a news conference in New York today. “He has land throughout the country and throughout the world. He has kept us informed of it. We’re aware of it. There are no plans, to my knowledge, of a stadium development. Anything that would require any kind of stadium development requires multiple votes of the membership.”
In 2012, the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission proposed a $124 million stadium upgrade. The team countered with a $700 million proposal, and negotiations between the team and city officials have continued since, the Post-Dispatch said.
The Rams have missed the playoffs in nine consecutive years. St. Louis has not had a winning record since 2003, and attendance at Edward Jones Dome has ranked among the NFL’s five lowest in each of the past six seasons.
The franchise is worth $875 million, according to Forbes magazine’s annual valuations. That ranks it 29th in the 32-team league and lowest in the National Football Conference.
The Los Angeles Times first reported the Inglewood land purchase yesterday.