Report: Rams for sale

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The NFL's Rams could be up for sale soon, raising new concerns about the future of the franchise in St. Louis.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bernie Miklasz on Sunday cited unnamed sources as saying that majority owners Chip Rosenbloom and his sister, Lucia Rodriguez, have retained the investment banking firm of Goldman Sachs to evaluate bids and help select a potential buyer.

A Rams spokesman on Monday declined comment. Phone messages left with Goldman Sachs and Stan Kroenke, the Columbia, Mo., businessman who owns 40% of the Rams, were not returned.

Rosenbloom and Rodriguez inherited 60% of the team following the death of their mother, Georgia Frontiere, in January 2008.

The franchise is far from the NFL elite - the Rams were 2-14 last season and 5-27 over the past two seasons. Still, Forbes magazine has estimated the value of the franchise at $929 million.

Fretting over the future of the Rams has become common in St. Louis, a city that has long suffered from low self-esteem when it comes to the NFL.

The Cardinals were mostly losers during their 28 seasons in St. Louis before leaving for Arizona after the 1987 season. St. Louis was so sure it would get an expansion franchise in 1993 that a team name was picked out - the Stallions. But the NFL opted instead for Jacksonville.

So civic leaders set out to lure an existing franchise, and Frontiere, who grew up in St. Louis, agreed to move the Rams from Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest market, to her hometown prior to the 1995 season.

Frontiere's death left the franchise in the hands of her children. Last year, after Yahoo Sports reported the Rams were being shopped, Rosenbloom released a written statement that stopped short of saying definitively the Rams would not be sold, but read in part that he had "every intention of keeping the Rams in St. Louis."

Now, that's not so certain. Miklasz wrote in his column that Rosenbloom prefers to sell to St. Louis representatives, but has been discouraged by the fact that no local buyers have stepped forward, so there would be no preconditions on the sale.

Kroenke could be one potential buyer, but NFL rules prohibit cross-ownership with franchises of other leagues, so he would have to sell the NBA's Denver Nuggets and NHL's Colorado Avalanche to buy the Rams.

The Rams aren't going anywhere in the short term. A lease agreement requires the team to remain in the Edward Jones Dome through 2015.

But in the long run, the dome may be more of the problem than the solution. The deal that lured the Rams required the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission to keep the dome among the top quarter of all NFL stadiums, based on evaluations at 10-year intervals. If it is deemed to fall short prior to the 2015 season, the franchise can relocate.

By 2015, the then-20-year-old dome will be among the oldest NFL stadiums. Getting it to top-tier status is unlikely.

"We'll continue to work with whoever the owners are," CVC president Kitty Ratcliffe said.

The CVC is spending $30 million to upgrade the dome prior to the 2009 season. Improvements include new scoreboards and video boards, upgraded clubs. Ratcliffe knows the next phase of improvements could be even more expensive.

"It could be anything from that amount ($30 million) all the way up to needing a new facility, and anything in between," she said.

A new facility would be a tough sell. Taxpayers built the dome just 14 years ago. When the baseball Cardinals decided to replace Busch Stadium, they had to so with mostly their own money.

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