Stan Kroenke came to sports naturally, his beginnings were humble. He grew up in Mora, Missouri, a speck of a town 100 miles southeast of Kansas City and swept floors at his father’s lumber business before he started keeping its books.
While attending the University of Missouri in Columbia, he worked as a busboy in a dining hall at a neighboring college and, with the help of a $1,500 loan from his father, bought into a local clothing shop. He sold his stake in the early 1970s—for a profit.
On a ski trip to Colorado in 1971, he met Ann Walton, the daughter of Walmart cofounder Bud Walton, and they married three years later.
Kroenke reportedly bristles at the perception that he owes his business success to his wife’s inheritance—he accumulated his sports teams independently of his wife, and Forbes tracks their wealth separately, crediting Ann Walton Kroenke with her own $8.7 billion fortune.
There is no denying that he benefited from the relationship. He got first-hand advice from Bud Walton and his legendary brother, Sam, and was introduced to a real estate developer who built shopping centers that often featured Walmarts.
Kroenke accepted a job with that company in 1975 and became a partner in 1979, before his acrimonious split in 1985.
As the founder of the Kroenke Group and cofounder of THF Realty, Kroenke began accumulating shopping centers across the U.S.
He now owns over 60 million square feet of real estate and more than 1.5 million acres of ranches.
Those holdings, plus his majority stake in StorageMart, represent nearly $3.5 billion of his fortune. But the majority of his wealth now comes from his sports assets.
He was involved in buying a stake in the Rams to help owner Georgia Frontiere move the team from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995.
Frontiere was frustrated with the Rams’ home at Anaheim Stadium, and Los Angeles wasn’t quick to offer a replacement. St. Louis, meanwhile, was already building a domed stadium and offered the Rams incentives to move in.
As Kroenke added more sports properties to his portfolio, the real estate magnate kept a focus on the buildings. In 2000, he bought not only the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche but also their arena.
The arrangement allowed him to maximize his revenue from streams like luxury suites and premium seating.
Kroenke started buying shares in the English Premier League’s Arsenal in 2007, assumed a majority stake in 2011, and became the sole owner in 2018; in the process, he also picked up the club’s Emirates Stadium, shrugging off jeers from English fans who objected to an American owner.
In 2010, two years after the death of Frontiere, Kroenke exercised his right to buy up the 60% of the Rams he didn’t own in a deal that valued the team at $750 million. That set the stage for the relocation battle.
A contract quirk allowed the Rams to terminate their stadium lease in 2015 if the facility did not rank among the league’s eight best. As the two sides haggled, Kroenke bought a tract of land in Inglewood, California
. Blaming the St. Louis stadium situation—and clearly seeing the economic opportunity of the Los Angeles market, with a population nearly five times the size of the St. Louis metropolitan area—he eventually won the NFL’s approval to move the team back to California in 2016.
The same year, he broke ground on a privately financed new stadium and paid the league a $550 million relocation fee.
Kreonke and Arsenal
According to Wikipedia, Arsenal already had a technical link-up with Kroenke’s Colorado Rapids. In April 2007 Granada Ventures, a subsidiary of ITV plc., sold its 9.9% stake in Arsenal Holdings plc to Kroenke’s KSE UK Inc. Kroenke went on to buy further shares in the club, taking his total stake up to 12.19%.
The club’s board initially expressed skepticism that a bid would be in its best interests, but gradually warmed to him as part of counteracting Alisher Usmanov‘s rival bid for the club.
In August 2018, he made an offer that was accepted of around £600m valuing the total shareholding at £1.8bn, to Alisher Usmanov, to bring his ownership of shares beyond 90% and forcing the compulsory purchase of the remaining shares.
In April 2021, Arsenal were announced as a founding member of the European Super League, which would have effectively ended the pyramid system of European football and placed Arsenal in a closed league without prospects for meritocratic relegation and promotion.
Arsenal and the five other English clubs involved backed out within two days after a strong backlash. After the aborted attempt to end the European football system, Arsenal protested and called for the Kroenke family to sell the club. The Kroenke family released a statement saying they would not sell the club.
His leadership in the Arsenal team however was met with some challenges. One such challenge being the AST questioning the club’s board on payment of £3m to Kroenke as they were unable to explain what the services Kroenke provided were, and why there was no tender for a consultancy fee of such magnitude.
Fans complained that if there is spare cash floating around at Arsenal it would be better put toward reducing ticket prices, paying match-day staff the London Living Wage or investing in strengthening the squad.
Chief executive, Ivan Gazidis always preaches that Arsenal are a self-sustaining club without any cash being injected into the business.
This angered fans because seemingly so because little of this money had actually been spent on strengthening the squad in the recent transfer window, with only one goalkeeper being brought in despite the club’s clear need for a new striker and defensive midfielder.