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Kroenke exercises matching right to try to buy 100 percent of Rams

ST. LOUIS -- Missouri billionaire Stan Kroenke has decided to exercise his matching rights and will try to purchase the remaining 60 percent share of the Rams.

Kroenke made the announcement late Monday, the deadline for him to make a decision.

Illinois businessman Shahid Khan reached agreement with owners Chip Rosenbloom and his sister, Lucia Rodriguez, on Feb. 11 to buy the team, and Kroenke had 60 days to decide whether to keep his 40 percent share, sell it or exercise his right to buy the team outright.

The announcement that Kroenke intended to buy the team was a surprise.

"We are pleased to announce that we have exercised our right to purchase the remaining interest in the St. Louis Rams football team under the terms of our Partnership Agreement," Kroenke said in a statement. "We have enjoyed our involvement in the National Football League since our original expansion efforts beginning in 1993 and our subsequent 15-year partnership with the Rams.

"We look forward to working with the Rosenbloom family and the NFL. We will respect the league and its processes in our efforts to complete this transaction."

Khan said in a statement that he discussed the situation with Kroenke on Monday night, and added that he told the majority owners he intended to "conclude the purchase if the opportunity presents itself." Khan also said he looked forward to learning who the Rams would take with the first pick of the draft later this month.

"I enjoy his company, admire his success in sports and certainly respect his right to try to purchase the Rosenbloom family's interest in the Rams," Khan said. "While the decision about ownership now rests in the hands of the NFL and its owners, my dedication to the league, the Rams, their fans and the St. Louis community is as strong as ever.

Chip Rosenbloom, the team chairman, released the following statement Monday night: "We and our advisors will work with the National Football League as we move forward with the objective of completing a transaction for the sale of our interest in the Rams."

Complicating the issue is Kroenke's ownership of the NBA's Denver Nuggets and the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. NFL rules prohibit cross-ownership.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined comment, saying the matter was between Kroenke and the current owners. There was no answer at a phone listing for Khan, the 55-year-old president of an Urbana, Ill.-based auto parks maker, Flex-N-Gate.

Forbes magazine has estimated the value of the Rams franchise at $913 million. The exact amount of Khan's bid wasn't announced, but it was believed to be closer to $750 million. Kroenke's statement didn't say what his offer for the team will be.

Kroenke, 62, has been 40 percent owner of the Rams since Georgia Frontiere brought the team to St. Louis from Los Angeles in 1995. Frontiere died in January 2008, and her children inherited the team.

The sale was expected almost from the moment that Frontiere died. Her children have other interests and no ties to St. Louis.

The Rams have struggled on the field for years -- they're 6-42 over the past three seasons, and their 1-15 record in 2009 was the worst in the NFL. After years of sellouts, crowds at the Edward Jones Dome have thinned as the play has worsened.

An ambivalent fan base, combined with the desire for a team in Los Angeles and other markets, led to speculation about the Rams' future in St. Louis. That was especially concerning for a city that lost the Cardinals to Arizona after the 1987 season.

But Kroenke's desire to become sole owner would seem to make a move less likely.

Kroenke, of Columbia in mid-Missouri, made his fortune in real estate development. His wife, Anne, is a Wal-Mart heir.

A group headed by St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts also was interested in buying the Rams. Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh initially was part of the Checketts group but was dropped in October after negative publicity about his involvement.

A loophole in the Rams' lease allows them to move after the 2014 season if the Edward Jones Dome isn't deemed among the top quarter of all NFL stadiums by various measurements. The dome is fast becoming one of the league's older venues, and getting it into the top quarter seems unlikely.

St. Louis' convention commission spent $30 million upgrading the facility before last season, installing new scoreboards and video boards and upgrading club seating. Next season they're due for a new grass field that can be stored and used in subsequent seasons, a major upgrade.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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