Checketts wants to buy Rams

Updated: June 2, 2009, 5:10 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts is heading a group seeking to buy the NFL's Rams and keep the team in St. Louis.

On Monday, the Rams announced that the family of former owner Georgia Frontiere has hired the investment firm of Goldman Sachs to review the assets of her estate, including the NFL team. The move was seen as potentially expediting a sale of the franchise.

A spokesman for Checketts, Eric Gelfand, said Checketts first approached Frontiere's son, Chip Rosenbloom, several months ago about buying the team. Rosenbloom and his sister, Lucia Rodriguez, inherited 60 percent of the Rams when their mother died in January 2008. Billionaire Stan Kroenke, owner of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche, owns the remaining 40 percent.

Gelfand said Checketts has put together a group consisting of St. Louisans and outside investors. He provided an e-mail from Checketts expressing confidence the group was a good fit to buy the franchise, which Forbes magazine estimates has a value of $929 million.

"We have the ability to get this done and we have communicated this to the Rams," Checketts wrote in the e-mail. "Last week, we communicated to Chip in no uncertain terms, that he now has a clear St. Louis buyer. We are that buyer."

Gelfand would not disclose other members of the group.

An NFL rule allows ownership of NFL teams and teams in other sports, but only if they are in the same market. That would be a problem if Kroenke wanted to become majority owner of the Rams.

Checketts' company, SCP Worldwide, owns Utah's Real Salt Lake Major League Soccer team. But NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the cross-ownership rule does not apply to MLS.

"We have reason to believe the NFL would approve our group, as we have carefully explored their ownership requirements," Checketts wrote.

The potential sale of the Rams has been rumored since Frontiere's death. Her children are both involved in other interests and neither has ties to St. Louis.

The sale has raised concerns in St. Louis given the city's spotty record with the NFL. The football Cardinals left after the 1987 season. The NFL passed over St. Louis for the smaller Jacksonville market when it awarded an expansion team in 1993. Two years later, civic leaders convinced Frontiere, a St. Louis native, to move the team from Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest market, back to her hometown.

Los Angeles is still without a team, and a loophole in the Rams' lease allows them to move as early as 2014 if the Edward Jones Dome is not deemed among the top quarter of all NFL stadiums. Though just 14 years old, the dome is fast becoming one of the league's older venues, and getting it into the top quarter seems unlikely.

Gelfand said Checketts is well aware of the stadium issues. "He also knows it's too early to address it specifically," he said.

Gelfand said Checketts' "main goal" is keeping the team in St. Louis.

"Given his relationship with the Blues, he feels like he's a St. Louisan and wants to do what's best for the community," Gelfand said.

Checketts, 53, and his Sports Capital Partners and Towerbrook Capital Partners purchased the Blues in 2006 from Bill and Nancy Laurie. The Blues have gradually rebuilt under his leadership and made the playoffs this past season for the first time since 2004.

Checketts became the youngest person ever to run an NBA team at age 28 when he became president and general manager of the Utah Jazz in 1984. He later ran the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press