Is Stan Kroenke A Good Owner?

Admittedly, I’m in a very sour mood about the Rams and from the “performances” we have seen and the dysfunction creep back that we thought was far gone after last year’s improvement.  But, the way the Rams have put together another ineffective roster, blame can be shared among everyone involved with this team, up to the ownership.

Stan Kroenke has a lot of money.  Stan Kroenke earns more money in a year than all of us put together.  That does not necessarily make him a good owner.  Since, he has only been full owner of the Rams for just over a year, we will cut him some slack with the performances at the Edward Jones Dome despite the fact that he has been a 40% owner since 1995.

Stan Kroenke is (or his family is) the majority owner of several other franchises including the Colorado Avalache of the NHL, the Denver Nuggets of the NBA (both purchased in 2000), Arsenal Football Club in England (minority stakeholder since 2007, majority owner since April 2011), Colorado Crush of the Arena Football League (since 2002), the Colorado Rapids of the MLS and the Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League (both since 2004).

After the jump, lets take a look at each of his teams and how they have done and how they have spent since he has been the owner.

The Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in the 2000-2001 season, but if we aren’t giving Kroenke blame for the Rams organization in his first year plus as full owner of the Rams, we cannot give him credit for this either, especially because the Cup winning head coach was already in place.  Since 2003, Kroenke’s 3rd year as owner of the team, they have failed to win their own division and have only made the playoffs (a very low bar in the NHL) four times.

In the no salary cap era in the NHL, Kroenke spent over $20 million above average from 2000 to 2004.  In the next three years with the cap, Kroenke spent 2 times around the cap until blowing the top off the salary cap in 2007 with almost $20 million more than the average.

With the Denver Nuggets, his other team that he has owned for the longest time, the closest they ever got to a championship was a loss in the Western Conference Finals in the 08-09 season.  The Nuggets are the opposite of the Avalanche and did not earn success until 2003, 3 years after Kroenke purchased the team.  The 2003 season coincided with the arrival of Carmelo Anthony, who took the team to the playoffs (another low bar) the next 6 seasons before forcing his way out of town.

There is not much online about what each NBA team has paid for salary, as the NBA has a a soft cap and a luxury tax for teams over the luxury tax threshold.  In the 2007-08 season, Denver spent $16 million over the threshold which was 2nd most in the NBA.

The Colorado Rapids won the MLS championship in 2010 after finishing 5th in their conference and storming their way to an upset win in the championship over FC Dallas.  However, the team has finished between 4th and 6th in the conference since 2006.

However, Kroenke may be getting his biggest amount of press and attention for his savvy takeover of Arsenal Football Club in London, which is one of the biggest sports teams in the world.  Kroenke used a rival takeover bid to convince the other minority stakeholders to sell to him out of dislike for the other person attempting the takeover.  When he had enough little pieces of the club put together, he could pass the 60%+ threshold that allowed him an option to buy whole team outright.

Kroenke has in place at Arsenal, a manager in Arsene Wenger who is more like a GM and head coach in one person to use NFL job titles to compare.  Wenger picks players to bring to the team, who to get rid of, plans the tactics and everything else involved with the day to day operations of the team.

Wenger is the type of manager who likes to bring in undervalued young players and build with them through their system (sound familiar?).  Although, Arsenal has had massive success through the years, they are currently in a rebuilding mode in a way and the fans lashed out at Stan and Arsene Wenger for not picking up any new players in the January transfer window.  (Think of it as a midseason international trade session.)

Stan had this to say about Arsenal: 

“Anybody who is a sportsman would rather compete on the basis of intellect rather than … being able to throw money against the wall,” Kroenke said. “Anyone can go and buy a player, but it takes a lot more to identify that player, develop that player and position him … you can overspend for the wrong assets and you end up shorter in the long run.”

Despite what Kroenke says above about Arsenal, he seems to have certainly been spending a lot of money on each and every one of his franchises.  The Nuggets and Avalanche have been far above the average in each of their respective leagues since he became owner and despite the language above about Arsenal, he did spend almost $200 million American on player wages last year.  That amount of money is considerably higher than any


Stan Kroenke did not get into the sports business as a philanthropic gesture, he is a hardened businessman and is in it to make money.  How much money he makes from his NHL, MLS, NBA and NFL teams is unclear as teams are not forced to release their books.  However, we do have a bit of insight into Arsenal, who have to release their information and last year the team made $71.8 million American in profit.  That is a good profit for anyone for a year’s worth of work.

Looking back at all his teams and all the numbers and salaries, I cannot find evidence that he is a good owner.  He puts a lot of money into his teams and probably gets a similar return on each team like he does with Arsenal.  He has negotiated and used his honed business and property acumen to buy each and every one of his teams.  We have heard that Stan wants to win badly, but I don’t see that commitment with all of his properties.  He’s a deep pocketed owner for certain, but writing the big, ceremonial checks does not a great owner make.  That needs commitment, leadership and the desire to win each and every game your team plays.  It is possible that Stan Kroenke is spread too thinly to be effective as managing each franchise or give the commitment necessary to clean out and streamline the Rams franchise.  Kroenke’s business history is in buying and selling (or in buying land that he knows that his wife is going to build a Wal-Mart on, if I’m being cynical), not in buying and rebuilding companies or resuscitating moribund franchises.

The Avalanche were already a great franchise when he purchased them, winning the Stanley Cup in his first year as an owner.  The Nuggets were taken from an also-ran to a good team by a great player (Carmelo Anthony) and a great coach (George Karl).  Arsenal can run themselves with a larger than life manager who calls all the shots.  The Rams are a different story.  Kroenke bought them at or near rock bottom.  The extra cash will help, but the Rams need more than cash, they need a personality transfusion from the top down.   Stan Kroenke is at the top and in the best position to get this franchise back up off the mat and the jury is still out on whether or not he will be able to do it.

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