The extended, 40-plus-minute radio interview of NFL executive V.P. Eric Grubman by Bernie Miklasz of 101 ESPN in St. Louis started with a claim from Grubman that none of the three cities faced with losing their teams have submitted “compelling proposals.” The discussion later had a compelling exchange between Grubman and Miklasz regarding the question of whether a reduction in the public contribution for a new stadium from $400 million to $300 million should prevent a deal being done with St. Louis.
Citing the $7.2 billion net worth of Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Miklasz said this: “I would think that if I were a gentleman who cared about this city and who benefited when the Rams moved here to take advantage at the time [of] an incredibly prosperous lease at the Edward Jones Dome and now sees the city less than 25 years later trying desperately to raise $400 million [in] public money to get everything done and understand that an effort has really been made on my behalf, even if it wasn’t the ideal situation, I would like to think that I’d be the kind of person to say, ‘You know what? The city has tried. This is the second new facility. There’s been an amazing commitment of public money, if you talk about the two facilities. My product has been lousy, really lousy. I have not engaged the fan base, I have not exactly cultivated goodwill. These people in my home state are really, really making an effort. And, yes, there may be flaws. It may not be everything that I want. But I have a conscience, and so I’ll work with them.’ I think if I were worth $7 billion, that would be my attitude.”
“I’m going to challenge that,” Grubman shot back. “I don’t believe you. And you don’t believe yourself. . . . Because what you’ve just said is, ‘If I’m worth $7.2 billion, the difference between $400 [million] and $300 million as a public contribution isn’t going to change it, and I’m going to work with them at [$]300 [million] even if it’s not [$]400 [million]. I call B.S. on that. . . . Because if your logic follows, then somebody worth [$]7.2 [billion], if it goes from [$]400 [million] to zero should feel the same way. . . . It’s the same thing.”
Miklasz disagreed strongly, and Grubman then said, “OK, so it goes to [$]200 [million].”
“You’re sort of playing a board game here,” Miklasz said.
“I’m hoisting you on your own petard,” Grubman replied. “You’ve always made the business argument, and now what you’re trying to do is make a business argument with emotion.”
“Are you telling me that in the National Football League that there is no room for sentiment, loyalty, it’s all nothing but business?” Miklasz later said. “Is that way you guys stand for? Nothing but business?”
Grubman then mentioned that owners should not do something that is “suboptimal” for them, simply because they have a high net worth like Kroenke.
“That’s not life,” Grubman said. “Life is he’s got options. Everyone has options. And they have to weigh those options against one another, and it’s not fair for you to bring up that person’s net worth to say that makes the difference between $400 million and $300 million.”
For starters, Kroenke’s current net worth is $7.7 billion. (So, basically, we’ve just found the $400 million, plus another $100 million.) And his wife’s current net worth $4.2 billion, which makes the couple worth $11.9 billion.
So it really is business and not emotion to consider whether a multibillionaire can use the threat of moving to obtain a significant public subsidy to stay. Sentiment and loyalty are great when they help the NFL sell merchandise or pander to specific demographic groups or put together a memorable cold open for a Thanksgiving Day broadcast.
But sentiment and loyalty definitely aren’t part of the stadium-financing game.
When it comes to the stadium-financing game, it’s all business. If Kroenke is going to pay for his own stadium, he’s going to do it in a bigger market like L.A. To get him to forego that option, a smaller market needs to cough up the cash in order to fulfill, for example, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s vision of St. Louis as an “NFL city.”
If a mid-level city wants to be an “NFL city,” there will be a price. For St. Louis to remain an “NFL city,” the current price isn’t $300 million. It’s $400 million.
And the reality is that sentiment, loyalty, and/or the 11-figure combined net worth of Stan Kroenke and/or Ann Walton Kroenke simply don’t matter.