Do you have an annoying brother-in-law? Mr. Can I Help You with
the Dishes, Mrs. Cleaver? Mr. Always One Better? Bill Laurie
Bill owns the St. Louis Blues, one of the best teams in hockey
this season. Pretty cool, yes? Ought to get you some strokes at
family picnics, right? Unfortunately for Bill, his
brother-in-law, Stan Kroenke, owns the Colorado Avalanche, the
best team in the regular season.
Stan 1, Bill 0.
Bill, 48, married one of the richest humans on the planet: Nancy
Walton, daughter of Bud Walton, cofounder of Wal-Mart, is listed
by Forbes as the 129th wealthiest person in the country, worth $2
billion. Not bad, yes? Well, Stan, 53, married Ann Walton,
Nancy's older sister, and Ann is even better off than Nancy--the
87th richest person in the country--at $2.8 billion.
Stan 2, Bill 0.
Bill loves Missouri football and is one of the Tigers' biggest
donors, though the team hasn't won a conference championship
since 1969. Six years ago Stan bought 40% of the St. Louis Rams,
who went out and won him a Super Bowl after the '99 season.
Stan 3, Bill 0.
Two years ago Bill was introduced at a press conference in Denver
as the new owner of the Avalanche, the NBA Denver Nuggets and the
Pepsi Center. He wrote a check for $400 million, started making
moves--even signed Avalanche superstar Peter Forsberg to a huge,
long-term contract. But then stockholders howled that the price
Bill had paid was too low and the bidding process had been too
fast. They reopened the bidding. Bill got such a red ass over the
deal that he refused to bid again. Ten months later Stan bought
the whole kit and caboodle for $450 million.
Stan 4, Bill 0.
Bill, a hoops freak, was known as Little Bill when he was the
starting point guard for the 1972-73 Memphis State team that lost
to Big Bill Walton and UCLA in the NCAA finals. Bill desperately
wants an NBA franchise. After the Nuggets deal fell apart, he was
introduced at a press conference as the new owner of the
Vancouver Grizzlies, started making moves, etc. Except the other
NBA owners didn't like one part of his plan--taking the team to
St. Louis on the first truck out. They blocked him from moving
the franchise for at least five years. Bill got such a red ass
that he walked away from the deal. Stan still owns an NBA team
and Bill doesn't.
Stan 5, Bill 0.
Bill is the number 1 booster of Mizzou basketball. In 1996 he
even gave the university $10 million to build a new arena, but
administrators took so long to move on the project that he got
the red ass and took the money back, instead giving $1 million of
it to other departments at the university. Now Bill sits in the
same old arena and watches Stan's son, Josh, a 6'4" sophomore
guard, play and play well.
Stan 6, Bill 0.
This season the Blues and the Avalanche each tried to make a deal
with the Los Angeles Kings to acquire All-Star defenseman Rob
Blake for the last half of the season. Stan got him and wound up
with the best record in hockey.
Stan 7, Bill 0.
Now the two teams are in the Western Conference finals of the
Stanley Cup. Last Saturday, despite having eight days to rest and
the Avalanche's having lost Forsberg to a ruptured spleen, the
Blues were whipped 4-1 by Colorado, which took a 1-0 lead in the
Stan 8, Bill 0.
Even though they live three miles from each other in Columbia,
Mo., Bill and Stan sat nowhere near each other at that game in
Denver. They don't sit near each other at Rams games. They don't
sit together at Blues games. While sitting at a bar in Columbia
one night last month, Bill told The Denver Post, "Stan knows as
much about hockey as that coaster." Might they have dinner
together sometime during the series? "Highly unlikely," said one
Avalanche executive. It's going to be a very quiet Thanksgiving.
Bill wouldn't talk to me for this column. Stan wouldn't either,
except to say, "I love Bill and Nancy."
Now that's nasty.
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
The owners of the Avalanche and the Blues are married to sisters
but can't stand to sit next to each other.