The passing of Oakland Raiders majority owner Al Davis sets up a a familiar situation, one that the St. Louis Rams can understand. Davis' death left his son, Mark, in charge of the 67 percent of the franchise. The younger Davis faces a hefty bill from inheritance taxes from the transfer of the team, a tax bill he might not be able to afford. Sound familiar? It should. When Georgia Frontiere left the Rams to her children, a sizable inheritance tax bill sent them looking for new ownership, eventually selling out to minority partner Stan Kroenke.
A potential sale of the franchise naturally opens the door for questions about a move to Los Angeles.
Michael Silver at Yahoo! reports today that Davis did have conversations with AEG, the company developing the downtown L.A. stadium. According to Silver, however, Davis refused to budge on selling controlling interest in the team. It is unknown whether or not Davis had talks with Ed Roski, who is developing another stadium project outside L.A.
The possibility still exists that the Davis family could retain control of the franchise, depending on the arrangements made by Al Davis before his death. What exactly those arrangements might be is hard to say; often families will use insurance policies to pay off tax bills for a sizable inheritance. Suffice it to say that it's a subject I only wish I knew more about.
Los Angeles is not the only option for the Raiders. A combined stadium with the 49ers in Santa Clara remains in play. The key takeaway from the Raiders' situation is that it accelerates the L.A. relocation race. Silver talked to several NFL owners yesterday who acknowledged that "the race is on" for the NFL's inevitable return to L.A., and that the Raiders are a very viable option.
That puts pressure on the San Diego Chargers, who are stuck in negotiations with AEG over the valuation and sale price of the team. With Oakland now a possibility, it seems to strengthen AEG's hand in talks with the Chargers.
And what about the Rams? Silver says they're still in the mix, something Sam Farmer from the L.A. Times also said recently. Timing might be the biggest impediment for the Rams relocating. Their out clause on the Ed Jones Dome doesn't come until 2014. St. Louis voters may be asked to help pay for improvements to the Dome in 2012. Officials are required to present the Rams with a plan for improvements to the Dome by Feb. 1 this year, a plan that could include asking tax payers to foot the bill. That sets up the potential for an earlier exit for the Rams, but a number of factors are at play.
AEG's timeline is certainly an issue that would seem to favor teams other than the Rams. They want to have purchased a team and have it relocated to L.A. in the spring of 2012, which puts their stadium project on the fast track. Bigger issues for the Rams involved the potential for Kroenke selling the team, since AEG wants to buy the majority partnership in whatever team it relocates. That might be a little soon for Kroenke to reap a substantial return on the team he purchased just more than a year ago, a team that isn't exactly helping its value with its on-field product. You also have to think that Kroenke, a real estate man, knows the value of owning his own stadium, which would significantly increase the value of even the most moribund franchises, like the Rams. He might find a favorable political climate in Missouri to build a stadium.
Jacksonville is also in the mix, and they continue to explore options for selling that team. Minnesota seems to have hit a big wall in trying to get public money for a new facility, and their lease runs out after this season.
Do yourself a favor, go read Silver's report. There are plenty of unknowns surrounding the NFL's return to L.A., but the death of Al Davis seems to have put that on the fast track. I suspect we'll have an answer to the L.A. sweepstakes by the end of the season.