Who Is Stan Kroenke? (And Why Do You Care?)

An unauthorized profile of this press-shy Forbes billionaire, Missouri native and Ted Turner archetype who is remaking Metcalf South

   If you haven’t already, over the next several months you’re likely to hear the name Stanley Kroenke attached to the buzzy redevelopment of the intersection at 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park.

   Yes, that’s the old Metcalf South shopping center on one side of the street and the equally empty French Market on the other — the place where your moms and girlfriends used to work, and the place where your boyfriends rented those powder blue prom tuxedos.

   But when you see what Kroenke is doing to Metcalf South, try not to think of him as the person who’s destroying your locally rooted history. Try to think of him as the guy who is nudging your history into your personal memory book.

   He’s just doing it with a wrecking ball.

   Kroenke, one of the richest people in America, isn’t that well- known in the Kansas City area, but if you drop his name in a sports bar in St. Louis (which you probably shouldn’t) you’ll certainly get an earful and maybe start a fight.

   Kroenke, 67, may be in the process of nudging some history into the memory books there, too, by moving the St. Louis Rams football team (which he owns) from the old and apparently obsolete Edward Jones Dome to a new football cathedral he is building in Los Angeles.

   If you’re a Chiefs fan you may be wondering, “What pleasant memories do Rams fans have?” Well, don’t forget there were Super Bowl appearances in 2000 and 2002. The Rams were once known as “The Greatest Show on Turf,” but probably more importantly their “Bob ‘n Weave” end zone dance routine helped give us the NFL’s “excessive celebration” rule. Yellow flag — 15 yards. (It’s also worth noting that by buying the Rams, Kroenke ended any hope that Rush Limbaugh would buy the team.)


Mall Makeover Artist

   In Overland Park, Kroenke’s The Kroenke Group and its partner, LANE4, have been generally welcomed by locals, since the brick shopping centers and deserted asphalt parking lots are depressing both the property values and morale. The hope is that the revitalization of one of the busiest intersections in Johnson County will also mean the rejuvenation of the entire area.

   TKG and LANE4 have announced vague plans to raze the buildings that have been there since the 1960s and create a mixed-use development – think retail shops and restaurants. Probably apartments. Maybe a hotel. All upscale and first-class. (Read more about the project in our composite real estate feature in this issue.)

   The only semi-official indication of what TKG and LANE4 want are businesses that are “Internet-proof” — i.e. offering things that aren’t available over the Internet.

   The partners say they want to get a better idea of what the community wants before they fix their plans. (There reportedly will be public hearings.) There are indications they also would like the city of Overland Park and Johnson County to participate in the funding of the development.

   That could be a sticking point. Stay tuned.


The (Walmart) Billionaire Next Door

   So who is Kroenke? To start with, the Columbia, Mo., resident is both one of the richest people in America and one of the nation’s largest landowners.

   The mustachioed, 6-foot-two tycoon’s full name is Enos Stanley Kroenke and he is named after Cardinals legends Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial, so his career as a sports team owner was almost predestined. He grew up the son of a lumberyard owner in rural Mora, Mo., in the Ozarks region. Kroenke showed promise as a high school basketball player but ended up focusing on a graduate business degree from the University of Missouri instead. He is now one of the univerity’s major donors.

   Kroenke earned most of his money in the ‘70s and ‘80s by developing land parcels around the country into retail strip malls, many that would eventually be anchored by Walmart stores. (So will a Walmart eventually anchor Metcalf South?) In 1991, he founded THF Realty, short for “To Have Fun,” in St. Louis. The multi-billion-dollar company has properties in 18 states.

   Kroenke was personally wealthy before he met and married Ann Walton in 1974, and it’s worth noting that they married well before Walmart became the business behemoth that it is today. Ann, also a Missouri native, is the daughter of James L. “Bud” Walton, a co-founder of Walmart. In 2014 Forbes magazine placed her personal wealth at $5.7 billion, the same as Stanley’s holdings, also estimated at $5.7 billion. They have two children.

   Politically, the couple is not known to have a high profile. Although they contribute several thousand dollars per election cycle to candidates — mostly Republican but a few Democrat — they historically have stayed out of the political limelight.

   The couple also own several multi-million-dollar homes.

   A sprawling 12,000-square-foot, five-bedroom mansion valued at $2.5 million is listed as their primary residence in Columbia, Mo. They also own other properties around Columbia.

   In addition to that house, there is the huge, seven-bedroom home in Malibu, Calif., they bought for $9 million in 1998. (The previous owner was Harrod’s heir Dodi Fayed, who died in the car wreck in Paris with Princess Diana.)

   They also own a home in Aspen, Colo., worth an estimated $20.7 million.

   Then there are at least three massive ranches the Kroenkes own, including the Broken O Ranch in Montana, a 124,000-acre spread that was for sale for $132 million when they bought it, although the actual sales prices has not been disclosed. The Denver Post reports that Kroenke like to hunt, fish and help build handmade fences or catch up on Westerns, biographies and historical novels on his Western acres.


The Kingpin of Sports

   When Kroenke isn’t at one of his ranches or other spacious homes, he may be at his 12,000-square-foot apartment in the Pepsi Center, the home of the Denver Nuggets pro basketball team, of which Kroenke is part owner.

   An avid sports fan, his Kroenke Sports Enterprises is involved with the Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche pro hockey team, the Colorado Mammoth lacrosse team and the Colorado Rapids Major League Soccer team.

   (It should be noted his complex sports holdings are at odds with National Football League rules that regulate how and where NFL owners may own pro franchises outside their immediate area. As such, Kroenke reportedly has moved primary ownership of the Nuggets to his son.) And across the pond he is the majority owner of England’s premiere soccer team Arsenal F.C.

   In the November 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated, Kroenke was called “sport’s ultimate kingpin” and named “The Most Powerful Man in Sports,” with sports assets then estimated at $4 billion. Writer L. Jon Wertheim states, “Kroenke, in fact, already has more skin in the sports game — more assets invested, more holdings, more major franchises — than anyone else on the planet.” Later in the article he points out that “Kroenke also runs his franchises, like, well, self-sustaining businesses. His teams carry little or no debt, while he withdraws virtually no money from them.” Nor has he ever sold one of his teams. When asked by Wertheim why he invests in sports franchises, he replied, “Sports are about these qualities of character: teamwork, perseverance, work ethic. These are universal values, and sports, at their best, promote these. [Sports] break barriers, they’re embraced around the word, they bring communities together….”

   Kroenke also owns Altitude Sports and Entertainment, a TV network that broadcasts his Colorado team games, and Altitude Authentics, which sells pro-labeled athletic gear.


The Anomaly of a Publicity-Shy Mogul

   Aside from what is publicly available about Kroenke — the property holdings, sports interests, business involvement — there is actually little known about Kroenke himself. And apparently that’s how he wants it.  Todd C. Frankel, a former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, described him in 2010 as “a man so private he has earned the Howard Hughes-esque nickname ‘Silent Stan.’” He is by all accounts a humble, down-to-earth man without arrogance or an overinflated ego.

   In this era of high-profile billionaires, Kroenke shuns attention. Bill Gates always seems to be speaking at technology conferences and Warren Buffett is often interviewed in the financial media and then, of course, there is Donald Trump.

   Kroenke stays out of the public eye.

   Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon recently put in a call to Kroenke to discuss the situation with the Rams in the hope of keeping the team in St. Louis. The call reportedly was never returned.

   Almost every publication that writes about Kroenke concedes somewhere that their information was gathered from public sources rather than through an interview.

   We at 435 Magazine also reached out to him via his partners, and didn’t receive a call back, either.

   It also might be noted that while it’s always nice to have another billionaire in the neighborhood, he’s just one of several investing in Kansas City.

   Warren Buffett owns Nebraska Furniture Mart out on I-435, and Google founder Larry Page launched his Google Fiber network here.

   Residents of Overland Park are just hopeful Kroenke and LANE4 can make the new 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue area as successful in the future as the old site was in their memories.


The Company He Keeps

   You can tell a little about people by the company they keep, and Stan Kroenke keeps pretty good company. He occupies positions on both the Forbes 100 list of richest Americans (along with his wife, Ann), and The LandReport’s annual list of who owns the most acreage in the country.

A sampling of the Forbes 400 billionaires: “The Richest People in America” 2014 List

1. Bill Gates Microsoft $81.4 billion
2. Warren Buffett Berkshire Hathaway $73.5
5. Charles Koch Energy $41.3
5. David Koch Energy $41.3
10. Michael Bloomberg Publishing $35.2
11. Mark Zuckerberg Facebook $34.2
12. Larry Page Google $29.6
14. Jeff Bezos Amazon $28.8
60. Elon Musk Tesla $7.7
86. Stanley Kroenke Developer $5.7
87. Ann Kroenke Wal-Mart $5.7
97. Henry Kravis Private Equity $5.1
100. Bruce Kovner Hedge Funds $4.9


Land Report 2014

1. John Malone broadcasting 2,200,000 acres
2. Ted Turner broadcasting 2,000,000
3. Emmerson Family lumber production 1,860,000
4. Brad Kelly broadcasting 1,500,000
5. Reed Family lumber production 1,370,000
6. Irving Family oil, publishing, timber 1,250,000
7. Singleton Family Teledyne Technologies 1,100,000
8. King Ranch Heirs cattle, agriculture 911,215
9. Stan Kroenke land development, sports 848,631
10. Pingree Heirs flooring grade lumber 830,000


Kroenke’s A-List Assets

   This billionaire business is the exact opposite of ostentatious, after all he is a Missouri native, but he still has some pretty shiny toys. Below is a list of some of his more famous assets.

  • The St. Louis (soon to be renamed Los Angeles?) Rams
  • Screaming Eagle:  Kroenke owns the Napa, Calif., vineyards that produce this cult cabernet sauvignon. It regularly retails for more than $1,000 a bottle.
  • A private personal jet and a yacht
  • Three ranches in Montanta, including a massive124,000-acre spread The Broken O Ranch, and the largest working ranch in British Columbia, Canada.
  • A penthouse suite and courtside seats at the Pepsi Center in Denver to watch The Denver Nuggets or Stanley Cup winners the Avalanche. He owns both teams.
  • Kroenke also owns a majority stake in English Premier League soccer team Arsenal F.C.
  • In 2007 The Denver Post reported that Kroenke was part owner of a resort Hana-Maui Hotel and Spa in Hawaii (now called Travaasa Hana) and was developing a hotel in San Miguel, Mexico.
  • Kroenke recently bought up the property on which Metcalf South sits.
  • He has private homes in Columbia, Mo.; Aspen, Colo.; Montana; Malibu, Calif., and more.