NFL Owners OK Rams’ Move to St. Louis
The Los Angeles Rams are history, officially gone from Anaheim to St. Louis after winning the National Football League’s blessing Wednesday with a $46-million payment.
In addition to a $29-million relocation fee, the Rams agreed to pay $17 million from the proceeds of personal seat licenses, which are one-time fees for rights to buy season tickets.
Twenty-three of the 30 league owners must approve a franchise move, and they voted 22 to 6 in favor Wednesday, with the Los Angeles Raiders abstaining. Rams owner Georgia Frontiere, who had been asked to remain outside during the special meeting, was then called on to cast the deciding vote.
“I thought about it for a few minutes,” she joked.
“My grandmother had a saying: ‘Go little where wanted, go not at all where little wanted.’ And that’s about the way it’s been (in Anaheim). I think they will be better off too,” Frontiere said.
After the vote on the Rams, the Raiders’ stadium concerns were discussed for an hour. Discussions included financial assistance for the construction of a new playing facility, and a guarantee that it would be the site of at least two Super Bowls. The league is expected to agree to partly fund the proposed stadium at Hollywood Park, but a vote will not be taken until the league’s May meetings in Jacksonville, Fla.
“We spent a lot of time talking about the Raiders,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “I can’t imagine L.A. without a football team, but who would have thought two years ago the Rams would be out of L.A.?”
League owners also approved the bid of Stan Kroenke, a Columbia, Mo., businessman, to purchase 30% of the Rams from Frontiere.
The Rams will play four games in Busch Stadium in St. Louis and finish the 1995 regular season in a $260-million domed stadium under construction.
Before they make their first appearance in St. Louis, the Rams will play the Raiders in an exhibition game, presumably in Southern California, and possibly at Anaheim Stadium.
The Rams’ move, the brainchild of Rams President John Shaw, ends a 50-year relationship with Southern California, and again gives St. Louis, which lost the Cardinals to Phoenix in 1988, pro football.
“I’m just relieved that it’s finished,” Shaw said. “I’m happy for the fans of St. Louis and I hope that fans in Los Angeles will get another NFC team.”
League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said placing another National Football Conference team in the Los Angeles market is a high priority.
“We hope to be able to put together a plan to have a second team in L.A.,” he said. “It could be expansion or it could be the relocation of an existing franchise.”
Tagliabue backed away from a plan calling for the Rams to establish a stadium trust fund for the renovation or construction of a stadium in Southern California.
“The (Finance) Committee felt that was a judgment that would be premature to make,” he said. “Many clubs felt the best use (of the $29-million relocation fee from the Rams) was for NFL charities.”
Shaw said he believes the league will make an attempt to place another NFC team in the Los Angeles area at the conclusion of the league’s television contract after the 1997 season.
“I think it’s in the best interests of the league to have teams playing in Los Angeles, but playing in modern facilities,” Shaw said.
The Rams exercised an escape clause in their Anaheim Stadium lease to begin the pursuit of a state-of-the-art football facility that would provide additional opportunities for revenue, such as premium seating and luxury boxes.
Shaw struck a lucrative deal with St. Louis that hinged on the sale of more than $70 million in personal seat licenses. He contended that the proceeds from those seats belonged to the Rams. The league said member clubs were entitled to 33% of that money.
The NFL Finance Committee met late into the night Tuesday and then came to Shaw demanding the $46 million. The NFL wanted the Rams to pay the league $20 million now and the remainder over 15 years.
“I advised Georgia and Stan not to accept the NFL’s offer,” Shaw said. “I thought it had become too pricey, but it’s their team and it was their decision to make.”
Frontiere and Kroenke, aware that the NFL’s offer has built-in provisos that could drive up the Rams’ obligation to $71.5 million, agreed to settle.
Although it appeared that Frontiere had to buy her way to St. Louis, Tagliabue strongly disagreed.
“It did not come down to a money deal with the Rams,” Tagliabue said. “That is a completely erroneous implication and had very little to do with it. There will be no money paid to the other member clubs of the league. There is a payment called for to the league which may go to NFL charities, or may go to a stadium trust fund. But (money) was the least of our concerns.”
The Rams offered the league $25.5 million a month ago, but league owners voted 21 to 3, with six abstentions, against approving the move. The Rams increased their offer to $37.5 million a week ago, but were told by league lawyers late Tuesday that it would take $46 million to gain the commissioner’s support and the recommendation of the NFL Finance Committee.
The team also agreed to pay 50% of any losses claimed by Fox-TV up to $12.5 million. If the league expands in the next 10 years and a team is not placed in Southern California, the Rams must pass on a $13-million expansion payoff.
So what changed a 21-6 negative vote into a 23-6 positive tally in less than a month?
“The desire to have peace and not be at war was a big factor,” Tagliabue said.
The Rams, who anticipate a profit in excess of $20 million a year in St. Louis, threatened to file an antitrust suit this week seeking billions of dollars in damages if they were blocked from moving.
“About five or six owners didn’t want to get the other owners into litigation, so they switched their votes,” said Jonathan Kraft, son of Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots.
Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, voted against the move. “I believe we should support the fans who have supported us for years.”
The New York Giants, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals and Washington Redskins also voted against the move.
Times staff writer Bill Plaschke contributed to this story.