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Litigation over ownership structure could be looming between the NFL, Titans

8 Oct 2000:  A general view of the Tennessee Titans helmet after the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Titans defeated the Bengals 23-14.Mandatory Credit: Tom Pidgeon  /Allsport Getty Images

As noted earlier on Sunday, the Titans currently are trying to persuade the league office that the ownership structure in the aftermath of the passing of founder Bud Adams complies with all applicable rules and provisions. It has caused some to speculate that, if the Titans fail, the Adams family may sell the team.

If they do, they likely won’t be going quietly.

Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, there’s a belief among key members of the organization that the team has hired a “noted antitrust lawyer” to defend the position of the franchise that the current structure complies with league rules. If accurate, it means that litigation could be looming between the Titans and the league.

Regardless of whether the situation ends up in court, the source tells PFT that the Titans strongly disagree with the league’s position on the situation. The Titans also contend that a number of other teams have more difficult ownership situations than Tennessee’s.

The NFL had no comment on the Tennessee dispute, other than to confirm that, for franchises owned more than 10 years by one person or family, a lone individual can hold as little as five percent of the team, as long as the family still owns at least 30 percent.

It’s unclear why the league specifically believes that the Titans aren’t in compliance, and it’s unclear why the Titans specifically believe they are. The possibility of antitrust litigation means that the Titans’ ultimate position would be to say that they can own the team however they want to own the team, and that a cabal of otherwise independent businesses can’t tell them otherwise.

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21 Responses to “Litigation over ownership structure could be looming between the NFL, Titans”
  1. bassplucker says: Jan 3, 2016 7:35 PM

    Yes because that’s exactly what one of the worst teams in the league needs to deal with on top of everything else this offseason

  2. doggeatdogg says: Jan 3, 2016 7:44 PM

    So the Adams’ family are being forced to sell by a group of businessmen. Who is the majority owner in the family? I’m confused.

  3. mikeyj73 says: Jan 3, 2016 7:51 PM

    Sell to Haslam family, they’re from Tennessee. Then find new owners for Browns. Win, win for everybody.

  4. learysdisciples says: Jan 3, 2016 7:52 PM

    “Could be”…should never be used in a headline yet it’s repeated over and over on this site. It destroys the credibility of the author and ultimately the news organization.

  5. f00sballfan says: Jan 3, 2016 7:53 PM

    Doggeatdogg, I’m a Titans fan who actually follows the team… and I’m just as confused as you.

    The sooner this franchise gets taken out of the Adam’s family’s hands the better.

  6. 12brichandfamous says: Jan 3, 2016 7:54 PM

    How about stating the NFL rule and then the current ownership strucuture so we understand.

  7. cuda1234 says: Jan 3, 2016 7:55 PM

    How can an ownership structure be out of compliance? Can you elaborate? Or provide a link to the rules?

  8. udub86 says: Jan 3, 2016 7:56 PM

    Here’s the structure as it is today: Susie Adams Smith and Amy Adams Strunk have 33 percent ownership each of the parent company which owns the Titans, and the family of Adams’ deceased son, Kenneth Adams III, also has one-third ownership — his grandsons, Kenneth IV (11 percent) and Barclay Cunningham Adams (11 percent), and their mother, Susan Lewis (11 percent).

    One major question. Who owns the final 1%. Florio forgot to mention most teams have a 51% majority (solo), 49% minority ownership as bare minimum, which the Titans do not have.

  9. chesswhileyouplaycheckers says: Jan 3, 2016 7:56 PM

    doggeatdogg says:
    Jan 3, 2016 7:44 PM
    So the Adams’ family are being forced to sell by a group of businessmen. Who is the majority owner in the family? I’m confused.
    __________________

    So is the family, that is the biggest part of the problem. When Bud Adams died the ownership was divided equally between his 2 daughters (33% each) and his 2 grandsons and their mother (11% each).

  10. hippieway says: Jan 3, 2016 8:05 PM

    It would seem that the Titans need new ownership, new coaches and a whole bunch of new football players.

  11. streetyson says: Jan 3, 2016 8:14 PM

    learysdisciples says:
    Jan 3, 2016 7:52 PM
    “Could be”…should never be used in a headline yet it’s repeated over and over on this site. It destroys the credibility of the author and ultimately the news organization.
    —————————-
    You’ve completely misunderstood the site – PFT is Pro-Football TALK, not NEWS. Sure, some of it is news (sometimes one of the first with it, and generally less bias than other outlets), but it is also about gossip, possibilities, rumour, guesswork, opinions and supposition – i.e. TALK! ABOUT PRO-FOOTBALL! And not just a news regurgitator. TALK, hence the name, TALK! I can’t believe you got thumb-uppers.

  12. jshawaii22 says: Jan 3, 2016 8:14 PM

    …So is the family, that is the biggest part of the problem. When Bud Adams died the ownership was divided equally between his 2 daughters (33% each) and his 2 grandsons and their mother (11% each)….

    If the structure above is true, then on the surface, they comply with the NFL rules. It must be that the team is in a Trust of some kind (usually done to allow anything in the Trust to avoid inheritance taxes) and in doing so, the way the Trust is structured is against the NFL rules.

  13. dirtdawg54 says: Jan 3, 2016 8:26 PM

    I don’t believe this is about non-compliance with NFL rules. The team’s ownership structure is clearly compliant. What the NFL is unhappy with is there is no clear majority owner and the three current owners are all squabbling with each other. That creates a problem for the NFL. They don’t want the drama – they want a clear, majority owner. I believe this is why they have called it an “ownership problem”.

  14. thisonesforpat says: Jan 3, 2016 8:28 PM

    I tried that, “…but what about THAT guy” defense before and the other guy punched me in the nose.

    Go ahead, throw 4 or 5 of your fellow-franchisees under the bus. See how that works for ya, long -term…

  15. bluez32 says: Jan 3, 2016 8:34 PM

    Sell to Haslam family, they’re from Tennessee. Then find new owners for Browns. Win, win for everybody.

    Not a bad idea as Jim Bob is clueless as a owner . aa a lifelong die hard Browns fan since 67 I agree . u can have him !

  16. revroy78 says: Jan 3, 2016 8:50 PM

    This is insane. My only hope is it gives Nashville and Tennessee the right to countersue (as claimants since we pay for the stadium) to open the team’s books up. I know it won’t happen but I’m curious to dig into cash flow statements.

  17. buckeye044 says: Jan 3, 2016 8:53 PM

    This is why they are so terrible. Ownership resides in Houston and only cares about making money. If the team doesn’t win and they don’t sell out, they could care less because they get all the league revenue sharing cash.

  18. blutoforprez says: Jan 3, 2016 9:18 PM

    You’re all wrong. Lerch, and Uncle Fester each have 33%. It’s the last 1/3 that’s in dispute between the Adams and Cousin It that’s causing the issue

  19. thetooloftools says: Jan 3, 2016 9:34 PM

    I will take the Adams Family over Jimmy Haslam any day. I wish they would swap franchises. At least the Titans look like they have a chance.

  20. jagsfanugh says: Jan 3, 2016 9:59 PM

    On the bright side with the #1 pick nowhere to go but up.

  21. goodmojo1 says: Jan 3, 2016 10:57 PM

    jagsfanugh we can pick top of the order every draft, with RW as our GM his 2-5’s have been killing us. Ownership has been asleep at the switch apathetic, or showing a plain old group competence deficit. Whichever the case, they have either watched it happen, or possibly worse had their collective backs turned. Things can get worse, simply by virtue of the Titans ownership issuing a crappy product even longer.

    I’m unsure what they’re squabbling over, inside the family: Whether to opt to continue drawing the “Tennessee Titans Annuity”, or selecting the “cash option”.

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