While some NFL teams are forever associated with great quarterbacks, stout defenses or trophy-winning dynasties, the Los Angeles Rams will be forever known as the team owned by a series of cartoon villains.
The current owner is Stan Kroenke. Born and raised in Missouri, he went into the real estate business. In his early thirties, he married Ann Walton, daughter of Walmart co-founder James Walton, brother of Sam Walton. Not coincidentally, that’s when his real estate business took off. He founded the Kroenke Group, a real estate holding company, and later THF Reality. His real estate business is best known for large, suburban retail developments anchored by big box stores, like Walmart. He also served on the Walmart board of directors for a time.
Before buying the full ownership stakes in the Rams in 2009, he bought the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, through one of his other companies, Kroenke Sports& Entertainment. He also bought an MLS team, the Colorado Rapids, as well as a professional lacrosse team in Denver. Kroenke owns a home in Aspen, Colorado. To get around the league’s rules for owning multiple professional sports franchises in different markets, he agreed to transferred ownership of the other teams to his son.
Kroenke initially bought a 30 percent share of the Rams in 1995, leaving Georgia Frontiere with 60 percent of the club. His purchase helped move the team from Los Angeles to St. Louis after a protracted fight with public officials over, what else, a stadium. The Rams landed a sweetheart deal for the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, putting nearly all of the financial burden for the facility on local taxpayers. That deal also gave the Rams a way out of the lease on the Dome, paving the way for their eventual return to Los Angeles in 2016.
After the death of Frontiere in 2008, majority ownership of the team transferred to her two children, who quickly put the team up for sale. Shad Khan, an auto parts manufacturer, was in talks to buy the Rams in 2009. However, before completing a deal to sell the team, Kroenke exercised his right of first refusal and agreed to purchase the other 60 percent of the team. He did so on the last day he was eligible to do so.
Despite negotiations with the city over the future of the Dome, Kroenke bought and began to develop land in the Los Angeles area that would eventually become the home of SoFi Stadium. A move championed by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, league owners approved the Rams’ move to Los Angeles in January 2016.
In November 2021, the Rams agreed to pay the City of St. Louis, the county and the regional sports authority (the entity that owned the Dome) $790 million dollars to settle a protracted lawsuit that alleged Kroenke and the Rams violated the NFL’s relocation guidelines and did not negotiate in good faith.
On Sunday, it all comes full circle for Kroenke. The team he helped pry away from Los Angeles, only to pry it away from St. Louis for a far more lucrative market, will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl at the stadium Kroenke built. Win or lose, it promises to be the capstone in a grand plan to extract the most value out of a once-forgotten NFL franchise.