Stan Kroenke, Georgia Frontiere, and the Rams' Twisted History of Owner Moves

Stan Kroenke

Stan Kroenke, Georgia Frontiere, and the Rams' Twisted History of Owner Moves

NFL

Stan Kroenke, Georgia Frontiere, and the Rams' Twisted History of Owner Moves

Football for the Los Angeles Rams has a much deeper history than an HBO season of Hard Knocks and a disappointing preseason performance from first overall pick Jared Goff.

The Rams were originally founded in Cleveland in 1937, and moved to Los Angeles after Dan Reeves became the owner and had his request for relocation approved in 1946. The Rams, historically, are a team on the move.

The new home in Inglewood, however, represents uncharted waters. The Rams management was denied $700 million in public money requested for a top-tier stadium in 2013. Instead, the team later jumped at the chance for a more profitable run towards “greener” L.A. pastures.

In the 29-page relocation application from current Rams owner Stan Kroenke, he said that St. Louis “lags, and will continue to lag, far behind in the economic drivers that are necessary for sustained success of an NFL franchise.”

Those words, which burned nearly every bridge he once had in St. Louis, came from someone born in Missouri, with three degrees from the University of Missouri. The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame has recently received 600 or 700 emails asking to remove him from enshrinement for relegating their team (via STLToday.com).

Shockingly, according to the The Huffington Post, Kroenke left St. Louis knowing that the city’s taxpayers still owe five million dollars per year until 2021. In fact, the city owed $129 million for the former home of the Rams in January 2015. The Rams owner has not offered to pay those debts.

“Suck the life out of a team, run it down, raise prices, then say it isn’t supported and leave,” tweeted FOX broadcaster Joe Buck (son of St. Louis legend Jack Buck) in August 2015.

Buck has a point. Since Kroenke gained majority ownership in 2010, the Rams are 36-59. Kroenke, despite his efforts to help take the team to St. Louis, made one press conference when he became owner. Otherwise, he was virtually nonexistent and focused on his many other franchises: Arsenal, the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche and the Colorado Rapids.

Kroenke isn’t the first character to own the Rams, and be part of a relocation or prominent move within the league. He’s just the latest to return the franchise to its most famous home.

Reeves, who won the NFL championship the season before his team relocated in the ‘40s, was a trendsetter in moving a sports franchise to the City of Angels. The Dodgers moved from Brooklyn in 1957. The Lakers left  their Minneapolis home—and the place that was a natural fit for the team name—in 1960.

Reeves was only 29 years old when he became a co-owner of the franchise, and was just 34 years old when he moved the team to Los Angeles. He was, throughout much of his time with the Rams, a devoted football fan and hands-on owner who worked heavily in day-to-day operations, akin to a Jerry Jones.

Due to early financial difficulties, Reeves sold some of his interest in the team after the move to Los Angeles, but retained control over operations. This led to frequent conflicts of opinion over the running of the franchise, and ultimately, a short-term arrangement with someone other than Reeves serving as General Manager (This position was filled by a certain Mr. Pete Rozelle before he became NFL Commissioner). By 1962, that agreement had expired, and the team was put up for auction. It was Reeves who submitted the winning bid, again becoming majority owner of the team.

Reeves—who then famously was embroiled with a power struggle with head coach George Allen and fired him only to re-hire him shortly after—controlled the football franchise until he passed away in 1971.

Carroll RosenbloomUpon his death, Robert Irsay (Jim Irsay’s father) purchased the team from the Reeves estate in 1972, but traded ownership (which was apparently a thing) with Baltimore Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom. Rosenbloom was a classic “horse trader” who was once accused of gambling on NFL games and called Don Shula a pig when he left for Dolphins. He began his ownership with a $13,000 pledge to become part of the ownership of the Baltimore franchise in 1953. Later, he took $3 million to move the Colts to the “inferior” AFC at the time of the merger, and then used some of that money just a few years later to orchestrate the Rams-Colts swap. The Rams then won the NFC West division for seven straight seasons under Rosenbloom’s ownership.

Rosenbloom, who maintained a “Godfather” role running the franchise, died unexpectedly in Florida after a drowning accident prior to the 1979 season. He had planned to take his team to Anaheim the next season with suburban relocation, using the NFL’s 75-mile rule used for marketing and blackout violations on television to justify the move.

Rosenbloom’s widow Georgia Frontiere was given seventy percent of the team when her late, sixth husband passed away. She fulfilled his wishes to move the team, but first helped arrange a 600-attendee funeral; she arrived late. The funeral including a controversial fifteen-minute standup performance from comedian Jonathan Winters.

Howard Cosell, describing the funeral in his 1985 book I Never Played the Game, summarized his experience watching the bizarre scene unfold.

“If chaos was Carroll Rosenbloom’s legacy, I can’t help feeling that he would have enjoyed it — most of it, anyway.”

Georgia Frontiere

Often known as “Madame Ram” in Los Angeles, Frontiere didn’t fit typical expectations for a sports owner. She was a poet, loved music and briefly had a television career as a weather woman and talk show personality.

Under her leadership, the team made three Super Bowl appearances (something her husband never achieved even once) including a loss during her first season in January of 1980, and a 1999 victory with the Greatest Show on Turf.

Frontiere loved astrology; she reportedly wouldn’t sign papers if Mercury was in retrograde. The sports owner also introduced her team to yoga. She was a vegetarian and was known for lavish lunches as well as appearances from celebrities like presidential daughter Maureen Reagan in her luxury box.

Fans of the franchise did not embrace her leadership. She fired her well-respected stepson, Rosenbloom’s son Steve, who many expected to take over leadership for the Rams. After the Rams lost in the 1980 Super Bowl, her team shipped to Anaheim just as Rosenbloom had planned.

Already criticized by the public for questionable roster decisions, she was quickly in the middle of a ticket-scalping controversy that resulted in her seventh husband being imprisoned.

Yet all this pales in comparison to the reaction to Frontiere during the last Southern California game in 1994. Fans made signs that read “Georgia is the Grinch” and she was mightily boo’d.

Frontiere notoriously moved the Rams to her hometown in St. Louis after the team struggled to succeed and attendance was beaten by high school teams playing in the same stadium. She took a backseat for team management in her later years and passed away in 2010.

While many wanted current Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan to purchase the Rams, it was instead Kroenke who gained lazy control of the team. Now, The Dome at America’s Center (formerly The Edward Jones Dome) sits vacant as Hollywood has a team to cheer for.

St. Louis is not happy to have their football franchise back in Los Angeles. But it’s hardly a surprise given the team’s notorious pattern of relocation and owner swaps.

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