Stan Kroenke has been dominating professional sports of late. He’s the majority owner in multiple leagues across several geographic (and international) markets:
- Los Angeles Rams, NFL
- Denver Nuggets, NBA
- Arsenal FC, Premier League
- Colorado Avalanche, NHL
- Colorado Rapids, MLS
- Colorado Mammoth, National Lacrosse League (NLL)
- Los Angeles Guerrillas, Call of Duty League (ESports)
- Los Angeles Gladiators, Overwatch League (ESports)
The Rams won Super Bowl LVI in early 2022, followed by the Avalanche bringing home the Stanley Cup and the Mammoths winning the NLL title during the summer months. The LA Guerrillas earned an improbably comeback victory to take the top spot in the Call of Duty Major League II.
In 2023, Arsenal finished in the runner-up position. The Nuggets took the baton and dominated the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals 4-1 under the leadership of star point-center and finals MVP Nikola Jokic.
It’s been a hell of a two-year run for Kroenke, so what can other owners in professional sports learn from his approach across multiple leagues and geographic regions?
Is there a lesson to be gleaned from Stan Kroenke's teams winning championships in multiple sports?— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) June 13, 2023
Probably not, but if so, it is this for ownership:
Put up the money, hire good people, let them do their job. and stay out of the way!
1 - Start with the front office and coaches
and let them do their jobs
Kroenke employs some very strong personalities to lead his teams—where other owners may feel deterred or have difficulty managing them. Sean McVay and Les Snead are starkly different personalities that run the Rams, and Mikel Arteta is another young, fiery coach that serves as the lead man for Arsenal.
It takes discipline to not micromanage the folks you’ve hand-selected to run the day-to-day operations, and it requires a confident owner to even join forces with strong personalities in the first place.
2 - Be patient
The biggest success of Kroenke’s sports ownership is relocating the Rams from St. Louis back to Los Angeles and constructing the leading sports venue in the world, SoFi Stadium. Kroenke may not have been able to accomplish this feat without hiring Jeff Fisher as the head football coach, who had experience relocating/transitioning the Houston Oilers to the Tennessee Titans. Snead was the general manager during Fisher’s time with the Rams, and while Fisher was given the boot after five years Snead managed to stick around and played a hand in the hiring of McVay.
You could make a solid argument that Snead had no business keeping his job after failing to make the post season with Fisher—though the team always seemed to underperform relative to the talent of the roster and that might have been what kept him around. Snead ended up being the architect of a number of veteran trades and aggressive maneuvers that helped the Rams position themselves for a Super Bowl, including the acquisitions of Jalen Ramsey, Matthew Stafford, and Von Miller.
Kroenke was oft-criticized for his patience with Mike Malone, head coach of the Nuggets. Malone has been with the team since 2015 and has been questioned by basketball media whether he could help Denver reach the next level with two-time league MVP Jokic on the roster.
The owner’s confidence and patience in Malone paid off in 2023 with a resounding playoff run and finals victory.
Coaches: What I love about this photo is that @nuggets Mike Malone has been to Sombor, Serbia many times. His connection to Nikola Jokic & his family is real & authentic. Transformational leadership. pic.twitter.com/7owuxbJlI6— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) June 13, 2023
3 - Don’t be frugal with your money
There are teams in every major sport that don’t have the cash resources to keep their team competitive year in and year out—even in the NFL where there is a hard salary cap.
The Cincinnati Bengals are at an interesting crossroads where they must choose between investments in some of their rising stars: QB Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Trey Hendrickson, etc. The team has historically conserved cash and takes a very conservative approach to guaranteed money in contracts, which could be the undoing of a currently top roster.
The Las Vegas Raiders under owner Mark Davis have also had to prioritize what makes sense from financially over what might be the best move from a football perspective, such as when they traded Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears back in 2018. The Los Angeles Chargers also have a cash-strapped owner in Dean Spanos and have sidelined themselves as the “other LA football team” and a tenant in Kroenke’s SoFi Stadium.
Kroenke isn’t reckless with spending when it comes to football operations, though there are some sizeable moves both the Rams and Arsenal have made in recent years that they’d probably like “do-overs” on. He’s also put up large chunks of money to help support the front office to keep them competitive—such as eating the dead cap money on QB Jared Goff’s recent contract extension in order to trade for and extend the contract of Matthew Stafford.
Based on Kroenke’s recent string of success across professional sports leagues, he’s obviously doing something right as an owner that helps the operations teams flourish—and other sports owners should identify the things that help him be successful and model them for themselves.