MINNEAPOLIS — Christmas is a time for family. Christmas is the time for the NBA. And with Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, the holiday is prepped for the NFL.
Stan Kroenke may well have it all this year. Kroenke owns the Los Angeles Rams, who are the defending Super Bowl champions – he and his son Josh own the Colorado Avalanche who more recently won the Stanley Cup.
“Well some people tell me it’s never been done before,’’ Kroenke said about winning two major world championships in the same calendar year. “So that’s kind of cool for all us, Josh.”
Kroenke and his son also own the NBA Denver Nuggets, who are good enough to draw a Christmas Day game. What is certain about this Christmas is the Broncos will play Kroenke’s Rams at L.A.’s SoFi Stadium.
The Broncos are now owned by Rob Walton, his daughter Carrie and son-in-law Greg Penner. Kroenke married Rob’s cousin Ann Walton 48 years ago. So December 25 may not be just about family, but perhaps the start of an NFL family rivalry.
“Well, we play each other on Christmas Day, right?’’ Kroenke said following the NFL owners meetings at the JW Marriott hotel at the Mall of America. “That’ll make for a good holiday. That’ll be fun. I think we’ll both look forward to it.”
Loser buys Christmas dinner, perhaps.
The Walton-Penner group eventually may want a new stadium for their shiny new toy that is the Broncos. Kroenke has plans for a major redevelopment project around Ball Arena in downtown Denver. The Walton-Penner group eventually may want a new stadium for their shiny new toy. Any chance the two groups will come together on the same project?
“Wouldn’t be unusual if we did,’’ Kroenke said. “They’ll have their focus and they’ll develop that. I wouldn’t want to comment on that right now. I think what they do is what we do. We work hard. We look at the long-term. And we invest for the long-term. So that’ll be the same. So I think that’s good for the city, frankly.’’
Greg Penner said his ownership group was going to take time to review all options before making a decision on a new stadium, although it didn’t sound like plans would be imminent.
As Walton and the Penners were going through the process of bidding to buy the Broncos, they spoke with Kroenke about the challenges of owning an NFL team.
“We chat, yeah,’’ Kroenke said. “The Denver Broncos are a unique and historic franchise. So what a wonderful club to have an opportunity to own. I always encourage them.
“Did I know years ago that they were interested in the Broncos? Not necessarily, but when they told me I wasn’t surprised. You want great partners in these leagues and I said earlier I’ve known Rob – Rob and Carrie I’ve known for over five decades. I’m not exactly sure how long I’ve known Greg but it’s between three and four decades. They’ll do a wonderful job. And having people you know you can count on that are forward-looking, that are progressive, and want to invest in the facility and the communities they’re in, that’s a big deal.’’
Business is where money is made. Sports is where big money has fun. The Walton family attained great wealth through Walmart – Rob succeeded his late father Sam as the discount store’s chairman in 1992 and Greg Penner replaced Rob in that role in 2015.
Kroenke did extremely well in real estate before he became a sports franchise mogul across five professional sports – soccer, lacrosse, football, basketball and hockey. And now his relatives decided to move from the sidelines to the NFL arena.
“I’ve enjoyed it,’’ Kroenke said. “There’s a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities, that’s the way life works. We talk somewhat and we’ll talk more I’m sure. We’re partners now. And by the way we’ve been partners for over 50 years.”
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