Titans shed more light on tension with NFL over ownership structure


Monday’s press conference introducing G.M. Jon Robinson and non-interim coach Mike Mularkey included an inevitable discussion of the team’s current ownership situation.

As always, the discussion began with a strong, clear denial that the team is for sale. But it was followed by enough comments to make clear the possibility that the Titans eventually may be for sale not because the owners want to sell, but because they have to.

“There’s no question about a potential sale of this team in the future,” team president Steve Underwood said. “The team is not for sale.  It has never been for sale.”

Asked whether the league is trying to identify buyers (PFT has reported that up to six potential buyers have been identified), Underwood held firm: “You know, it’s really hard to do that when it’s not for sale.  You know, you can have all of the buyers in the world, but if there is not a seller, you can’t sell anything.  The team is not for sale.  It’s never been for sale.  When you find a source listed about whether or not the team is for sale, then feel free to ask those questions about that person.  I know all of the sources.  They’re the people that own the team.  I don’t know how many times we have to deny that it’s for sale.  The team is not for sale.”

Right, but the team could be for sale if the Titans fail to persuade the NFL that the current ownership structure complies with league rules — and if ownership chooses not to sue.

“The Commissioner has mentioned that there are issues with the ownership structure, and we address it with the league on a weekly basis,” Underwood said, adding that the problem has been “ongoing since Mr. [Bud] Adams’ death,” in 2013.

Although details regarding the NFL’s concerns remain scant, Underwood said that the league is “concerned with the ownership structure, not with the individual owners.”

That concern, which has lingered now for more than two years, isn’t going away any time soon. Appearing on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville on Tuesday, Underwood said that he sent a letter to the league this week regarding the situation, and that the team and league are in “regular, high-level communication.”

At some point, the communication will end, and an ultimatum will be issued (unless the NFL changes its mind about the structure). The Titans then will have to choose whether to comply, to sell, or to sue.

A year and a day after #DeflateGate, it’s hard to tell whether the Titans are the latest franchise to be railroaded by the NFL, without knowing the ownership structure, the NFL’s concerns with it, and whether other teams are (as the Titans contend) further out of compliance with the relevant rules than the Titans. For now, neither the Titans nor the NFL are providing details about the dispute, which makes it impossible to know his this one will play out.

Thus, it’s impossible to rule out a forced sale of the team, regardless of whether a voluntary sale would never happen.

26 responses to “Titans shed more light on tension with NFL over ownership structure

  1. Wanna bet that Bud put the team ownership into a Trust benefiting his children and possibly other charitable entities? That would likely create the problem and require a sale.

    By the way – you mentioned deflategate. If the information the NFL has developed over the past season validates the Patriot position will the NFL give the Patriots back the $1 million and the draft picks? This is going to be the story of the draft – at least in NE.

  2. The NFL just knows that no other teams will come up for sale anytime soon & have a relatively long waiting list of deep-pocketed investors who’d probably be willing to get into a bidding war for the Titans. The team would undoubtedly set a new benchmark in price with a more favorable market/better stadium situation than my Bills who went for $1.4billion. And a higher valuation for the Titans only strengthens the other 31 franchises. Not to mention, the current absentee owner situation in Tennessee doesn’t look very good for the league either.

  3. My guess is that no one person has 30% equity in the team required by NFL bylaws. In 2008, by a 31-0 vote, the Owners approved an exemption for the Steelers; Dan Rooney and his son Art Rooney III together met the 30% requirement. I suspect Bud Adams’ heirs are looking for a similar exemption to the rules.

  4. They only need to wait one more week until Peyton Manning is knocked from the playoffs and retires. Then he can buy the team, right?

  5. Are we still supposed to call it deflategate when the NFL lead counsel admits that there is absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing and refuses to release the notes on the case?

    I’m pretty sure that it should be called Framegate.

    NFL referees are already leaking stories about how some game balls go down to 8psi.

  6. dietrich43 ,

    That’s not it. Bud Adams owned 100% of the team. It’s either he named multiple heirs or as another commentor said, he created a trust. Either way, they’re in violation and the league is being nice about it not forcing the sell so far. However, I think this is coming to a head as evidenced by the regular communication on the subject. I doubt the Adams women care, but rather told Underwood to work it out since he’s the only one who has skin in the game. If they sell, he’s out, which is why he’s working feverishly on this situation. Titan fans should want them to get it over with because the Adams women and the spouse of one of them are bad owners. They have no ties to Nashville, are absent from anything to do with the team, and are just holding up progress.

  7. Manning doesn’t have that kind of money. A minority owner, maybe. The same thing will happen in New Orleans when/if Benson loses to his adopted daughter & her spawn. Say hello to your St Louis Saints! Is that an oxymoron?

  8. Even though it’s a growing market I could see this team moving. There will be a domino effect from LA, and it won’t just be the Chargers and Rams. Central Texas is viable, Mexico City, London etc.

  9. ……..The Adams should sell this team in 2016…the team will NEVER have a higher value that it has now….A young QB..a #1 pick….and Mr. Manning who will undoubtly be a great owner or partial owner…it’s a win-win-win-win for the Adams, Peyton, the NFL and the fans of the Titans……. Just do me a favor….change that logo…it belongs on a Harley motorcycle…not a helmet.

  10. Well here’s a comment from a Rams fan that had his team yanked from us.
    The NFL owners- everyone of them- should be ashamed. Stealing teams and moving them wherever and whenever they please. Fans have rights as well or should have rights. These rules they keep talking about are laughable. What rules they need to bend they do. So to push a team out because of a teams ownership structure doesn’t necessarily comply with league rule is a farce. Did Stan Kronke break league rules for buying majority ownership of the Rams when he owned multiple franchises in a competing owners market place. That was against league rules. That has on for years thus Shad Khan’s offer to buy the Rams was denied. Kronke moves the Rams to LA. and STL is out of the NFL

  11. The Titans are more often than not losers, so why would the NFL go after them?

    Are the other owners pissed that they get high draft picks all of the time?

  12. I believe the issue is that there are essentially six different people that own a piece of the Titans.

    “This is how Titans ownership stands: Adams’ two daughters, Amy Adams Strunk and Susie Adams Smith, each own one-third. The other third is divided equally among the heirs of Adams’ deceased son Kenneth Adams III – Kenneth S. Adams IV and Barclay Cunningham Adams, and their mother, Susan Lewis.”

    What i’m not sure of is why that matters. Look at the packers, they’re owned by their shareholders.

    I’m not sure how / why the NFL could be forced to sell them, other than they’re doing a terrible job at running the football team.

    And I don’t believe they can be moved since they’re under contract with the city over the building of the stadium until 2025 or something like that. Plus, Nashville is one of the hottest cities in the country currently. If their was a good product on the field, the titans would sell out every game. They proved it for years…

  13. mrlaloosh,

    No, it won’t. Georgia Frontiere is the precedent or that one. That’s why the adopted daughter took Benson to court to challenge his competency. It’s also why the Giants didn’t have that problem say like what happened to Jack Kent Cooke’s kids who tried to buy the team when they were outbid by Daniel Snyder. Tish and Mara designated 1 son each from the families to take over as co-owners. Adams probably didn’t do this. He certainly wouldn’t have struck me as a person who would have.

  14. …” The same thing will happen in New Orleans when/if Benson loses to his adopted daughter & her spawn. Say hello to your St Louis Saints! Is that an oxymoron?”…


    It’s more likely to be San Antonio.

  15. rcassell27 ,

    Well, if that’s accurate, that’s the problem. Multiple people, even family members can’t own the team without one having the principal ownership stake. Either he should have named one principal heir or they need to get to selling. Even the Steelers had to have a special clarification indicated for them, and love the Steelers or hate them, let’s not pretend like the Adams family has contributed to this league like the Rooneys. Also, for the person asking about Croenke, he had to transfer ownership of his teams in other markets to his wife and son. Yeah, you can say it’s a farce, but if she divorced him today, I’m thinking that wouldn’t be a farce in court when they say she owns the teams and there’s nothing he can do about it to get them back.

  16. cardinalsfan20 ,

    One of them has to be named as principal owner. From how it sounds, Bud didn’t name any of them the principal. A family only has to own 30% of the team with as little as 10% to the principal owner and the other 20% to other family members, but that principal owner has to be clear. Looking into this further, the trust issue is no longer an obstacle as they voted to change that rule last summer, so this is probably squarely a matter of their being no named principal owner. So either she would need to buy the other family members out or they would have to aqueous to her being the principal owner, which is probably the issue. As I understand there is one of the grandsons who wants to be in control of the team and probably makes that not possible at this time for everyone to come to agreement of who should be principal heir say like the Rooneys clearly did and Bud obviously didn’t name one of them it like the Maras and Tishes did with the Giants. This is the reason the NFL wants one principal owner in these family situations where the team is passed on to avoid these kinds of problems. That rule only applies to relative heirs of teams, which is why Stan Croenke had to buy the rest of the Rams since he already owned 40% of the team when Georgia Frontiere died.

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