By Jaboner Jackson 8 am | Yesterday, we posted the Definitive NFL Stadium Guide, which listed ownership entities, lease terms, and financing information for all 32 NFL teams. But no matter what the Guide says, reality differs from expectation. When NFL pundits prognosticate who might be coming to Los Angeles to play in AEG’s planned downtown Los Angeles stadium, Farmers Field, they rely mostly on lease terms. Accordingly, everyone predicts that the Buffalo Bills or San Diego Chargers will be heading to Farmers Field because both teams have outs on their current stadium deals. But lease terms do not tell the entire story. So today we are Stack Ranking The Teams Headed To Farmers Field.
1. Expansion Team #1
Yes, despite the inspection of stadium lease terms, AEG still wants to secure an expansion team for its planned stadium. This has been their plan since 2009, when they first began discussions with the NFL about bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles. As a reminder, the NFL unanimously voted to opt out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in November 2008, at which time the NFL began to formulate a long-term strategy to expand from 32 to 36 teams.
When the NFL lockout began, the threat of losing the entire 2011 season was real. AEG read the same McKinsey Study that the NFL owners did. They were left scrambling to sell the NFL stadium to the City of Los Angeles without a team in hand and started contacting in earnest contenders for relocation. But with a new CBA expected to be completed sometime in July, expansion will once again be part of the NFL’s plans. The NFL was adamant in its Open Letter in February 2011, before the lockout, of building new stadiums in “Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego.” Those are the exact words of Roger Goodell, who understands as any good corporate executive does, that the larger his organization, the greater his pay will be. When AEG CEO, Tim Leiweke, states that Philip Anschutz, owner of AEG, wants a majority stake in an NFL team, he is not talking about the Jaguars or Chargers or Raiders. He is talking about an expansion team. (Casey Wasserman is slated to be a minority owner in the expansion team.)
And the NFL has designs of not only expanding to Los Angeles but elsewhere as well. There was a reason for NFL Europe and the International Series. But that’s a different post…
2. Oakland Raiders
The reason why the Oakland Raiders are the frontrunner for a relocated team has nothing to do with the fact that their lease with O.co Coliseum runs out in 2013. Rather it has everything to do with real discussions that AEG has held with the Raiders. Per my source with AEG, these discussions heated up significantly in January of this year. The Raiders represent AEG’s contingency plan in case AEG is unable to secure an expansion team.
3. No Team
If expansion does not happen and the Raiders somehow miraculously get a new stadium in Oakland at the current site of the current stadium, Farmers Field is likely as dead as Majestic Realty’s stadium in City of Industry. The real reason for the July 31, 2011 deadline given to the City of Los Angeles by Tim Leiweke has nothing to do with the City of Los Angeles. Farmers Field is a done deal on the city side, with the Mayor’s Office and 13 of 15 City Council Members already having implicitly signed off on the transaction. Rather, the deadline represents the NFL’s own internal drop-dead date for securing a new CBA and not losing any games for the 2011 season.
4. St. Louis Rams
Everything that is old is new again. AEG and Stan Kroenke have a longstanding history together. Not only did Kroenke purchase the operating rights from AEG for the MLS Colorado Rapids in 2003, but he continues to work hand-in-hand with AEG’s concert division, AEG Live, for the AEG Rocky Mountain Concert Series, which is bringing the Foo Fighters and other AEG Live artists to Kroenke’s Pepsi Center in Denver. (Technically, Stan Kroenke transferred ownership of Pepsi Center to his son to fulfill NFL bylaws regarding team ownership but there really is no difference.) My source at AEG tells me that AEG envision the Rams as the leading candidate to be the second tenant of Farmers Field with the first tenant be an expansion team owned by AEG.
5. San Diego Chargers
Okay, not really. The Spanos Family was heavily linked to Ed Roski’s Majestic Realty project in the City of Industry but they have no real connection to AEG. Despite Tim Leiweke’s public comments a few weeks ago that they would pay the $24 million in lease termination fees to bring them to L.A. There have been no discussions between AEG and the Chargers for relocation. Put simply, it’s not happening. But they make our list because every list should have at least five players.
6. Who Did Not Make The List
Buffalo Bills, under their current ownership with Ralph Wilson, are committed to staying put.
Jacksonville Jaguars are locked into their stadium deal. (See the Guide.) AEG has not had serious discussions with the Jaguars for this reason.
San Francisco 49ers at this point are a longshot. No direct talks between AEG and the Niners have taken place. But AEG has been in contact with a syndicate that is exploring a purchase of the 49ers but the transaction is muddy. Although the Yorks privately have been contemplating a sale since April, there has been no recent movement with the CBA situation cloudy. At this point, it looks as if the Yorks will remain owners of the Niners and get a stadium built in Santa Clara.
Minnesota Vikings are staying put. If the Ramsey County stadium gets built, AEG will play a management role in it, attempting to create an entertainment complex a la LA Live and O2 in London.
Expansion Team #2. Although the NFL would like to add two expansion teams to the Los Angeles market, the situation is cloudy due to the CBA mess.
Next week, we’ll have a podcast to wrap up our latest coverage of the NFL in LA.