Conversation with NFL/L.A. point man Eric Grubman

I got the chance earlier today to talk with NFL Executive vice president Eric Grubman, the point man on stadium development and team presence in Los Angeles.

Needless to say, with the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams all potential candidates to land in Los Angeles, and Rams owner Stan Kroenke announcing he is building a football stadium on the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack, Grubman is been a busy man these days.

He was gracious enough to spend of few minutes and shed light on what’s going on with the NFL and Los Angeles and the Rams.

In the short time you’ve been working on Los Angeles, what is your sense of the passion and wherewithal to get the NFL back?

I think Los Angeles has demonstrated over and over that it’s an incredible sports market and an incredible entertainment market. And like I’ve said, it’s a unique market. I’ve been to a lot of different places all over the world in multiple different careers and I’ve looked at them from the standpoint of being in the military, I was in finance and energy and now I’m in sports. I look at Los Angeles and it’s the nexus, it’s the crossroads of celebrity, business and culture. It’s really a very unusual place, and it’s big. It’s a place we should be, if we can do it successfully. I think there was a long period of time where leaders of the community and the political and business realm probably thought that we should have an NFL team but defaulted to we don’t have to do anything to get the NFL or a team to go there.

What’s changed is, business people have expressed enthusiasm, political leadership has expressed enthusiasm and while no one has paved a way for us to walk in and be in Los Angeles, a lot of things that we had a hard time coming together on and proved impossible years ago are starting to jell. And that’s why you see progress being made. I think people have to, at some point, recognize, they can’t control everything. You can’t pick the team, pick the date and pick the site. If they sit back and say we want it to happen and we accept some uncertainty, the chances go up.

Was the league on board with Stan Kroenke’s decision to build a stadium in Inglewood?

We have relocation guidelines and in the case of the Los Angeles market, ownership expressed a preference through an informal vote a couple of years ago with specific guidelines for the Los Angeles market. One of those guidelines was that any club interested in the Los Angeles market, before taking any action – you could think about it, prospect it, look at stadium plans – but before anyone was going to buy a piece of land or tie up something in negotiations they had to keep the league office informed. With that as the standard, I’m very satisfied that Mr. Kroenke met that standard.

I’ve seen some, what I perceive speculation within the press as to what the league’s point of view was or wasn’t, and the happiness factor. For us it was much more of a neutral. Is this in accordance with the procedure and the rules and customs? Yes or no? And the yes was very easy. And so, we were not surprised. He didn’t stretch any rules or procedures, And, as to happiness, that’s in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure some people like the site. Others don’t. That’s not a league view. The league office view is we have a process, it’s a long road, and as long as people keep us informed we’re not going to get emotional about it.

The NFL says it wants its current teams to remain in their current cities, yet one owner is making plans to build a stadium in Los Angeles…

I can’t speak for Mr. Kroenke and the Rams, you should ask them their point of view. My point of view, if I take a step back, is emotions can run high and people can make assumptions around those emotions. And those assumptions may not be right. I don’t know what anyone’s plans are, and I don’t know what anyone’s going to propose until they propose it. Our job is to enhance the chances of putting something together in each of the markets and enhance the chances of putting something together in Los Angeles.

So, that’s like saying to me, I don’ have the ability to do my best in Los Angeles because I’m supposed to do my best in another market. I can assure you that’s not the case. I would like to get a stadium built that’s satisfactory to the market, the club and the fans in all of the markets. Including markets that don’t have a team or might not have a prospect for a team. So there’s no conflict for me. Is there a conflict for an owner? I don’t know. It’s only a conflict if an owner has made up his or her mind and I don’t know that that’s the case.

What do you make of what Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said about Stan Kroenke not needing league approval to move to Los Angeles?

I made the mistake once of trying to explain what Jerry might have been talking about (laughing). I won’t make that mistake again. So I’ll refer you to Jerry on whatever he meant.

I’ll just go back to what’s obvious, which is relocation is subject to a vote. When you look at Jerry’s comments I don’t know what he is expressing other than he preferences and his point of view.

I do know the point of view expressed on the floor of league meetings and to me many, many  times by many owners, which is this is subject to a vote. And they feel strongly about it.

Sort of a hypothetical, if Club A can decide to go to Los Angeles without a vote then Club B could decide to go to any market including Dallas without a vote. Somehow I don’t think these things can be reconciled. But I will respectfully refer you to Jerry.

What is the process of deciding on a relocation fee should the Rams or anyone else decided to move to Los Angeles?

There’s no formula associated. Relocation fee, what is it meant to compensate for? In this case, an expansion fee is meant to compensate for the dilution of league revenues that instantly occurs. And even though there’s no formula for that, you can at least get your head around that dilution. In this case, Los Angeles is a valuable asset that is a league asset. When it (stops becoming) a league asset and becomes the asset of one or two clubs, that’s the negotiation. I come, at least one of my careers I come from a  financial background and I couldn’t tell you there is a knowledged way to do it. I think every situation is different.


Behind the scenes, Stan Kroenke working to build NFL support

PHOENIX – It’s typical when the reigning NFL commissioner delivers his state of the league address ahead of the Super Bowl for most of the league’s 32 owners to be in attendance.

So it seemed conspicuous when three prominent owners were no shows Friday when Roger Goodell took the podium at the Phoenix Convention – and in one of their cases didn’t even send a representative.

Conspicuous in a very Los Angeles sort of way, I might add.

Dean Spanos, Mark Davis and Stan Kroenke were no where to be found on Friday. Considering their San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams are simultaneously fighting for new local stadiums while also privately – and in some cases publicly – casting an adoring eye on the wide open market that is Los Angeles, their absence hardly seemed coincidental.

Los Angeles has become such a hot topic recently in terms of the Rams or Chargers or Raiders relocating there – especially with Kroenke recently joining forces with Stockbridge Capitol Group to build an 80,000-seat football stadium on the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood – it makes sense all three likely wanted to avoid the hassle of dealing with the 200 or so reporters covering Goodell’s speech.

Not that Los Angeles wasn’t a major topic, in front of the cameras and behind them. And while Kroenke was no where to be found, don’t think for a second his presence wasn’t felt all the way from the Mississippi River to Los Angeles.

In fact, an NFL source told me Friday Kroenke has covertly begun the process of collating support from fellow owners should he actually decide to move the Rams to Los Angeles.

Short of just uprooting his franchise without permission from the NFL – and that seems an unlikely path – Kroenke will need 24 fellow owners to sign off on any relocation.

“That’s one of the key questions to sort out. Is he going to be able to get 24 guys to come along with him?” the source told me.

Kroenke, it seems, is taking steps to help insure he gets what he needs.

“I’ve seen some bridge building on the part of Mr. Kroenke. I’ve seen him trying to build relationships league wide,” the NFL source said. “I don’t know that he can just power through what he thinks he can do without support.

“It still comes down to – I would think 24 – but if not you certainty need momentum and support within the ownership. You can’t go rouge. That’s not the way the league works,” the source added.

Whether Kroenke gets the necessary approval remains to be seen. With the Raiders and Chargers also eyeing Los Angeles, there is the chance one or both could work to block him.

And at this point, Kroenke has yet to actually state what his intentions are – whether Los Angeles is truly his end game or if he’s using it as leverage to get a new stadium built in St. Louis.

But he actions indicate he wants to be in California. Now begins the process politically and within the league of making that happen.

“He’s got some work to do, but from what I can see he’s begun that,” the NFL source said. “And now that he’s put it out there he’ll be more high profile (within in the league) He’s working on it.

“I’ve seen some movement on his part to start to build some support within the league, and with the other owners.”

Get ready for some Los Angeles/NFL talk today from Phoenix


PHOENIX – National Football League Comissioner Roger Goodell will deliver his annual State of the NFL address later this morning in Phoenix. Among those listening in attendance will be representatives from all 32 teams, including most of the 32 owners.

Three owners in particular figure heavily into some of what Goodell might touch upon, and Los Angeles is the focal point of that connection.

Stan Kroenke of the St. Louis Rams, Dean Spanos of the San Diego Chargers and Mark Davis of the Oakland Raiders are all embroiled in local fights to build new stadiums. And all three have their eyes on Los Angeles as a potential landing spot should they fail to secure new homes in their current cities.

In fact, Kroenke has already made a major move toward potentially relocating the Rams to the Los Angeles area. Last month he joined forces with Stockbridge Capitol Group to build an 80,000-seat football stadium on the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood. Presumably it’s to be the new home for his Rams – although Kroenke has not commented publicly on his plans and back home in St. Louis local leaders are scrambling to push forward with a new stadium proposal that will hopefully keep the Rams in St. Louis.


Skepticism is rising in Missouri that Kroenke already has his mind made up about moving to Los Angeles, and at this point it’s hard to imagine otherwise considering the bold move he made aligning himself with the Hollywood Park stadium proposal.

In fact, this week a local leader expressed publicly his belief that Kroenke no longer wants to be in St. Louis..

“There’s no question about it, they’d rather be in Los Angeles, in my mind,” said St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission chairman Andrew Leonard.

Leonard added it would take a “spectacular effort” to keep the Rams where they are long-term. The Rams recently opted out of the remainder of their 30-year lease with the Edward Jones Dome, and are now working on a one-year lease with the stadium.

The Chargers and Raiders are in similar lease situations, but only Kroenke seems to have a solid plan in place to call Los Angeles his own.

Needless to say, it’s left quite a few folks in St. Louis a bit skittish.

Maybe some light will be shed on the situation later today. Stay tuned.


Rams move to one-year lease at Edward Jones Dome

As expected, the St. Louis Rams have exercised their right to move to a one-year lease with the Edward Jones Dome. The move is not shocking, as it was always headed in this direction. The key now is whether this is a step along the way to the Rams returning to the Los Angeles area or just a step toward getting a new stadium deal in St. Louis?

Meanwhile, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reiterated his belief that Rams owner Stan Kroenke has the right to move his team if he feels it’s financially in his best interest – regardless whether fellow owners approve or not.

Jones explains: “Of course it’s his decision. It’s his risk, his effort; that risk is his.”

Jones might not be alone. There is a growing sense within the NFL that it’s only a matter of time before the Rams bolt to Los Angeles, as was explained here in Albert Breer’s excellent piece.

Chargers deny latest L.A. report, but the rumors keep coming

With Los Angeles emerging as a likely landing spot for one or two of the St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders and each team trying to motivate their local markets to help build them new stadiums, the rumor mill just keeps churning.

In fact, you can almost expect a new batch of stories coming out on a weekly basis until someone – or some two – finally takes the plunge and officially declares their intention to move to Los Angeles.

Like the report that surfaced yesterday via Andy Strickland of CBS Sports radio 920 AM in St. Louis that the Chargers have a deal in place with Goldman Sachs to build a stadium in San Diego.

The story was immediately shot down by the Chargers through ESPN, and after personally reaching out to a Chargers official who backed up the denial, my instincts tell me there is nothing to see here.

That doesn’t mean the Chargers won’t eventually end up in Los Angeles – they are mired in a long-time stadium fight in San Diego that is growing more than a little bit acrimonious – just that the deal reported by Strickland doesn’t quite add up.

Strickland cited a Rams official as the source of his story – not someone affiliated with the Chargers or Goldman Sachs – and the manner in which the Chargers immediately refuted the claim was a little too adamant and a little too quick for something that actually has legs.

So color me extremely skeptical on this one.

But like I said, until one or two of the Rams, Raiders or Chargers officially takes the plunge, you can expect this sort of stuff on a weekly basis.

With the NFL holding off any move to Los Angeles until at least 2016 – and the Rams, Chargers and Raiders riding simultaneous tracks trying to build new stadiums locally while also monitoring the Los Angeles market, there is a ton of jockeying and politicking going on.

Sorting through reality from smoke will be quite the challenge.

What we know officially right now is Rams owner Stan Kroenke has partnered with a land developer to build a privately funded football stadium on the sight of the old Hollywood Park race track in Inglewood, presumably to be the new home for his Rams.

Meanwhile, back in St. Louis local leaders are scrambling to get approval on a stadium plan they believe is attractive enough to keep the Rams. But there are numerous hurdles involved with getting the plan approved, not the least of which are the hard feelings resulting from Kroenke casting an such an adoring eye on Los Angeles.

In Oakland, city leaders have asked for individual stadium proposals from the Raiders and Oakland A’s as part of a development project on the 128-ace sight of the Coliseum, the stadium the two teams share. However, there is room for just one stadium in the project and with neither team willing to share a stadium with the other, it looks like one of them will get squeezed out.

Back in San Diego, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is promising to get a ballot measure for a new stadium before voters in 2016. But the Chargers haven’t exactly embraced most of the mayor’s ideas.

As for the Rams, it’s hard to believe Kroenke went this far and this publicly with the Hollywood Park deal without an absolute conviction to move the Rams there, but then, until he officially declares his intentions everything right now needs to be taken in the context of three teams trying to work the best deal possible for themselves.