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Original Issue

West Pointed

A week after his Rams were awarded the right to move to L.A., owner Stan Kroenke talked to SI

WHEN NFL OWNERS voted 30--2 last week to relocate the Rams to Los Angeles, they tilted the league's center of gravity. They also trained the limelight of Hollywood on the owner of the team they selected. A native of Missouri, Enos Stanley (Stan) Kroenke might be worth billions and—as owner of the NHL's Avalanche, the NBA's Nuggets, MLS's Rapids and the EPL's Arsenal—may have more money invested in sports than anyone on the planet. But from now on he'll be known as the man who, after years of failed negotiations in St. Louis, decided to go big rather than stay home; the man who went West to bring football and a $2.7 billion pleasure dome to the City of Angels.

Do you feel as if you won?

SK: We never viewed this as a competition. This process is designed to be hard, in the best interests of all franchises, their respective cities and the NFL. All of the previous L.A. stadium proposals were real estate development projects without a team. Most of the projects had different issues and never really got off the ground. With us having a team and with our real estate experience, it wasn't a difficult concept. We believed we could help solve a problem for our 31 partners and bring the NFL back to Los Angeles. This was never personal.

Do you see similarities between this and the real estate development strategies you've used building shopping centers, warehouses and apartments?

SK: This is a big real estate development project with the stadium as the anchor. The stadium is 20 to 25% of the project. We are building a true entertainment venue and a city within a city. Our 300-acre site, for example, is larger than the footprint of Century City in Los Angeles. This is a developer's dream. Commissioner Goodell asked for very specific things in his letter in 2012 to the ownership concerning any team wishing to relocate to Los Angeles. He wanted an "iconic" stadium and an entertainment district. So an iconic stadium with an entertainment district is exactly what we created.

I have said that I'm not sure a rational person would have done what we've done without the perspective of decades of experience in real estate development and the sports business.

What is the biggest issue facing the NFL?

SK: I'd say stability with television contracts and stability with labor and our players. Those two things must continue to work well for the long-term stability of the league. They allow all markets to compete for titles, as evidenced by this year's playoff contenders.

How do you feel about having another NFL team as a tenant? (The Chargers have an option to move to the new stadium. If they don't accept within a year, the Raiders get the option.)

SK: That was part of the relocation approval process, and we're happy to welcome a second team. A second team would be viewed as a partner, not our tenant. With the league's stadium program, two teams make it easier to finance these projects. The stadium has been designed to host two teams from Day One.

As a private person, are you concerned that owning what will surely be among the most watched franchises will make you more of a public figure?

SK: Sports figures are public figures. I've owned teams for more than 20 years. London is a comparable stage to Los Angeles, and Arsenal has one of the most passionate and vocal fan bases in sports.

You're a Missouri guy, named for St. Louis legends Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial. After bringing football home, what were the emotions of moving the franchise out?

SK: It's extremely hard. I never dreamed I would be put in that position. But we were put in that position. People forget that when we brought the team to St. Louis, the city already had a stadium without an NFL tenant. It was very important to the Rams, when we moved there, to have the lease in proper form that required the stadium to be kept in a certain way for the long-term stability of the franchise. Stadiums shouldn't be a competitive disadvantage. That was the situation we faced.

We had given stadium officials passes for a number of years to help them out. We told them years in advance that they should be prepared for us exploring alternatives. I understand the emotional side of sports, but when you look at the rational, economic side, what was expected of us made no sense. That still didn't make this an easy decision. It was extremely difficult and very emotional.

With all your obligations, how involved do you anticipate being in the Los Angeles Rams?

SK: We try to find the most capable people and put them in place to run the teams on the field and off. We always stay close to the businesses. We want to make sure they remain healthy. An unhealthy franchise is a bad thing. It's not any fun for the owner, I can tell you. So we will always be involved.

At your next family gathering, how do you anticipate being received?

SK: My kinfolk and several friends from Missouri have already spoken with me. There's an old saying: "Be sure you're right, then go ahead." They brought that up. They said they've never seen me not act that way. So they know our approach was right and fair. They are fully behind us. I think the people of Missouri also get it. There will always be the emotional side. Sports fans are passionate. But this decision was not about me or St. Louis. It was about what was in the best long-term interest of the NFL and our 31 partners.

"I'm not sure a rational person would have done what we've done."

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