St. Louis Rams Ownership in Doubt as Stan Kroenke Tries to Sell Team to His Wife

David LeonCorrespondent IMay 10, 2010

DENVER - NOVEMBER 4:  Denver Nuggets owner Stanley Kroenke is seen at the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Pepsi Center on November 4, 2004 in Denver, Colorado.  The Nuggets won 94-92 in overtime.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.(Photo by: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The Rams ownership confusion seems to have taken a turn for the worse.  Evidently, Stan Kroenke appeared before the NFL finance committee last week in New York City.  He made a quite convoluted proposition there.  Specifically, he would use his contractual right of first refusal, and his wife Ann Walton Kroenke would buy the Rams.

Sources inside the NFL question whether this proposal will pass muster.  In all honesty, it does look like a cheap trick.  How can Kroenke exercise his contractual right of first refusal on behalf of his wife, and at the same time pretend that there is a legal distinction between his property holdings and her own?  Such strained logic would almost certainly give Shahid Khan an opportunity for a legal challenge.

Neither the NFL nor Stan Kroenke have given public comments on the proposal as yet.

Analysts seem to believe that this proposal flaunts the cross-ownership rule more than it avoids it.  Several experts believe the only way the deal may be approved is if a true sale to Ann Kroenke occurred, and both legal and operational divisions were erected between Ann's management of the Rams and Stan's management of his franchises.

Ann Walton Kroenke is one of several Wal-Mart heirs.  Her personal wealth is estimated at some $3.5 billion.  Her personal wealth is greater than that of her husband, Stan.  She is the nation's ninth richest woman, and certainly she has the wherewithal to write such a check.

Unnamed sources, presumably inside Kroenke's camp, described last weeks presentation as "the opening offer" in what could be a drawn out negotiation with the NFL's finance committee.

Certainly, this is not good news for the Rams.  Many believe that the Rams' ownership turmoil during this uncapped year has prevented management from acquiring several valuable free agents, and making trades that would have helped turn the team around.  Without clear financial commitments from a solid owner, it would be difficult to make a trade for a WR like Brandon Marshall and then sign him to a front-loaded $44 million contract.

Legal experts originally expected Stan Kroenke to "divest" himself of the Nuggets and the Avalanche by passing ownership of these franchises to his his son Josh.  This would at least give a token of respect to the NFL's cross-ownership rule.  This may yet windup being the winning proposal.

We don't know how many rounds of offers and counter-offers it will take to get there, though.