Rams’ Kroenke Offers $100M Settlement; Ex-Panthers Owner A Wild Card

    • Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson could be pivotal if case reaches trial in January.
    • Damages could reach as much as $1 billion if St. Louis prevails at trial.

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Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke offered $100 million to settle the St. Louis relocation lawsuit, an amount that sources told Front Office Sports was rebuffed by the plaintiffs in a case that has many NFL owners on edge. 

A vast majority of the league’s owners have been “underwhelmed” by Kroenke’s efforts to settle the lawsuit brought by St. Louis, St. Louis County, and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority in 2017, one source said.

A majority of the owners believe Kroenke has no wiggle room in the indemnification agreement in the case, which FOS previously reported could result in $1 billion in damages if the jury rules in St. Louis’ favor.

The settlement offer was part of a presentation on the case given by NFL general counsel Jeff Pash at the owners meeting in New York last month, sources tell FOS. There was no timeframe given when that offer was made, one source said.

While there’s an urgency among NFL ownership and commissioner Roger Goodell to settle the case before financial inner workings and correspondence become public, it’s not currently likely that the league would promise St. Louis an expansion franchise.

It’s been theorized that awarding St. Louis with the league’s 33rd team could make a settlement less costly in the short term, but overall the owners are hesitant to share league revenues with another team, even with a massive expansion fee. Sources also told FOS there are concerns of how St. Louis — which has seen both the Cardinals and Rams leave the city over stadium disputes — would support a future NFL franchise and the size of the media market (No. 23, per Nielsen). 

With the trial set to begin on Jan. 10, one source said the arithmetic on both helping foot the bill and setting St. Louis up with a franchise could change, and the soft-spoken Kroenke — worth an estimated $10.7 billion — has few allies outside Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Kroenke, Jones, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, and New York Giants co-owner John Mara have already given depositions in the case. Kraft, Mara, Jones, and Hunt were fined by the judge last month for failing to turn over financial documents in a timely manner.  

All 32 teams — and their owners at the time the lawsuit was filed — are defendants in the case, and some are worried about the testimony of one former owner: Jerry Richardson, who owned the Carolina Panthers for 23 years before selling in 2018. 

While transcripts and other documents remain under seal in the case, sources tell FOS that there’s a belief among some owners that Richardson’s deposition and potential testimony could help St. Louis’ case. Richardson announced the sale of his team in December 2017 — three months after the lawsuit was filed — amid allegations reported by Sports Illustrated of sexual harassment and the use of a racial slur that sparked an NFL investigation. 

Richardson, 85, was on the NFL’s Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities formed to guide efforts to return football to the Southland two decades after the Rams and Raiders left town following the 1994 season.

Richardson backed a stadium proposal in Carson that would have housed the Chargers and Raiders before Kroenke won approval for a site about 10 miles north in Inglewood, now the site of SoFi Stadium, the home for the Rams, Chargers, and this season’s Super Bowl. 

Richardson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in November 2015 that St. Louis’ stadium proposal to replace the Edward Jones Dome, where the Rams had played from 1995 to 2015, met league guidelines to keep the franchise in St. Louis. The stadium has since been renamed The Dome at America’s Center.

“Those are the rules,” Richardson said.

But in January 2016, Kroenke’s proposal won out 30-2 in a rare secret-ballot vote. 

That vote, in large part, went Kroenke’s way because of the indemnification agreement, sources said. If Kroenke hadn’t signed it, it’s widely believed that the Carson site — which had the backing of then-Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger — would have prevailed. 

An NFL spokesperson declined comment. Messages left with the Rams were not immediately returned. 

Sources confirmed to FOS that Goodell has sole authority on how that agreement is enforced per terms of the agreement, which was first reported by ProFootballTalk. ESPN was the first to report Kroenke could challenge the agreement.

A source told FOS there’s no cap on how much Kroenke would have to pay out over litigation. 

There’s a sentiment among several owners that Kroenke won’t find success if he tries to sue in an attempt to nullify the agreement. 

“Kroenke is likely going to be bound by its terms,” said Dan Lust, an attorney at Geragos & Geragos and sports law professor at the New York Law School. 

“He could certainly try to get out of it under a theory of rescission. There are certain circumstances when contracts can be rescinded if the person signing the contract was a minor, if somebody was mentally incapacitated, circumstances change, or there was some type of material breach. However, by all indications, none of those are met here. Nothing has changed other than that legal costs keep going up and this case is on the verge of trial.”