Rams and NFL settle St. Louis lawsuit for $ 790 million franchise relocation to Los Angeles

November 26, 2021

S T. LOUIS – NFL and Rams owner Stan Kroenke will pay $ 790 million to settle a lawsuit brought by St. Louis interests over the team’s relocation to Los Angeles, a joint statement from the LA said Wednesday. city ​​and county of St. Louis.

The deal does not include a promise by the NFL to give St. Louis an expansion franchise in the future, a source familiar with the deal told ESPN, confirming a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That idea was not seriously discussed, the source told ESPN.

It was not immediately clear how much Kroenke would pay and how much the owners of the league’s 31 other teams would cover.

“This landmark agreement closes a long chapter for our region, securing hundreds of millions of dollars for our communities while avoiding the uncertainty of the trial and appeal process,” read a statement from St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and of the St. Louis County Executive. Sam Page.

St. Louis-area officials have not yet determined how the settlement funds will be used, according to the statement.

An NFL spokesman, in a brief statement, said the league and St. Louis interests “have been able to fully resolve the dispute.”

The settlement, reached in mediation, ends a 4 1/2 year lawsuit filed in the wake of the Rams’ departure. Kroenke and the NFL had both failed in their offers to have the lawsuit dismissed or at least move out of St. Louis, and the courts were sympathetic to the effort by the St. Louis side to release financial information on the team owners. failures that accelerated the momentum for a settlement.

The case was scheduled to go to trial on January 10. The lawsuit requested more than $ 1 billion. He claimed that the team’s move cost the St. Louis region millions of dollars in revenue from entertainment, ticket and winnings taxes.

Then-owner Georgia Frontiere moved the Los Angeles Rams in 1995 to her hometown of St. Louis, where they stayed for 21 seasons before Kroenke transferred them back.

Kroenke, a Missouri real estate developer who is married to an heir to the Walmart fortune, became a minority owner when the team first arrived in St. Louis. Frontiere died in 2008 and left the team to his sons, who sold the Rams to Kroenke in 2010.

It wasn’t long after the Rams began pushing for hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades to the downtown vaulted stadium built with taxpayer money in the early 1990s to attract an NFL team.

St. Louis interests initially proposed a more modest upgrade, then eventually proposed a new $ 1 billion stadium along the Mississippi River that would be jointly funded by taxpayers, the team, and the NFL. The league and the team objected.

Instead, Kroenke bought land in Inglewood, California. SoFi Stadium opened in September 2020 and is now home to the Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, who moved from San Diego in 2017.

Beyond losing an NFL team, St. Louis residents were outraged by Kroenke’s 29-page request to relocate ahead of the January 2016 homeowners meeting where the measure was approved. The document criticized St. Louis for population decline, questioned the region’s economic future and questioned whether it could support the Baseball Cardinals and the hockey Blues, as well as an NFL franchise.

The 2017 lawsuit filed on behalf of St. Louis, St. Louis County, and the St. Louis Regional Sports Complex and Convention Authority said Kroenke, other team and league officials knew as early as 2013 that the Rams were planning relocate, but they lied by denying that. The lawsuit says the league ignored its own relocation guidelines by allowing the move.

The NFL, Rams and Kroenke said the guidelines are not strict and that the league had the right to pass a measure that clearly benefited the NFL and the owners of its 32 teams. The deal comes after a series of losses on the court for Kroenke and the NFL, America’s most popular and lucrative sports league.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Christopher McGraugh ruled in July that there was sufficient evidence that Kroenke and others were involved in fraud, so he ordered NFL owners to release financial records. The purpose was to allow a jury to consider punitive damages if Kroenke and the NFL lost the lawsuit.

Attorneys for NFL officials called the request for records “invasive,” but the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the lower court order in September.

The NFL and Kroenke had also tried to move the trial out of St. Louis, citing “undue influence” over potential jurors. But McGraugh denied the request in August, a decision that was later upheld by a Missouri appeals court.

Kroenke and the NFL also unsuccessfully sought to have the case heard in arbitration rather than in court.

ESPN’s Seth Wickersham and The Associated Press contributed to this report.