Minnesota needs a new rival. Wisconsin has always been a
marriage pre-divorce of convenience, but other than the Badgers and the Packers (who we all will pity in just a few short years), what else is there to hate? There’s no NHL team in Milwaukee, Giannis and the Bucks are actually easy to root for, and the Brewers are a fun MLB Interleague hang (Miller Park kinda rules). It seems that we can go west for our answered prayers—this Minnesota-Colorado Rivalry might be a thing now.
The Colorado Avalanche (boo, hiss) are in the Stanley Cup Final, the Denver Nuggets and their two-time MVP will be the Wolves’ biggest obstacle in the NBA’s Northwest Division for the foreseeable future, and we just poached their top exec. Also, Colorado has legal weed and sports betting that we should be envious as fuck about. But I digress.
Do you smell that? That lightly tinted fragrance of cow guts masked by the ever so slight ambrosial aroma of musky dankness?
I THINK WE HAVE COLORADO BEEF, EVERYONE.
Minnesota is Desperate
In his first media appearance since 2018, Kroenke, who looks like if Kendall from HBO’s Succession tried to cosplay as Doctor Strange, was hurling some serious shade in Minnesota’s direction. Asked why he and the Nuggets weren’t willing to match the Wolves’ offer to Tim Connelly, Joshy Poo got a little
“Ultimately when you go to a stratosphere that some clubs, you say some desperate clubs, are willing to go to, there’s a tier out there that just kind of doesn’t make sense.”“Nuggets Journal” by Michael Singer. June 4, 2022. The Greeley Tribune.
First off, fuck you, dude. And second, why doesn’t every team operate out of desperation? Kroenke called the Wolves desperate in a purely pejorative sense because given the choice between hoisting championship banners and saving money, the Kroenkes would rather save money. Titles are a cherry on top of an inflated valuation, not the other way around.
The Colorado Kroenke Portfolio
The reason Tim Connelly is in Minnesota isn’t the Wolves’ desperation, it’s Josh Kroenke’s frugality, which is rich (no pun intended) coming from one of the wealthiest douchebags in the world. Someone whose wealth and status comes not from hard work and natural intellect, but is the result of a fortuitous ski weekend, a lottery-ticket marriage, and ruthless acquisition and management of sports franchises.
If the name Kroenke sounds familiar, it’s because you probably know Josh’s dad, Stan, the asshole best known for moving the Rams out of St. Louis. Stan Kroenke is currently the current owner of (deep breath):
Arsenal F.C. (EPL)
Arsenal W.F.C. (WSL)
Colorado Avalanche (NHL)
Los Angeles Rams (NFL)
Colorado Mammoth (NLL)
Denver Nuggets (NBA)
Colorado Rapids (MLS)
Los Angeles Gladiators (eSports)
Los Angeles Guerrillas (eSports)
The Rise of Colorado’s Favorite Son
In 1999 Daddy Stan created Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE), a holding company to manage all that exhausting messy shit. Josh was only 19 at the time, so he couldn’t go straight to a VP role. He had just accepted a full-ride basketball scholarship (something this poor billionaire desperately needed) to the University of Missouri. He’d start 16 of 122 games, shoot 39 (64 percent at the line), and average 2.6 points per game. BUT HE WAS A LOCKER ROOM GUY.
Josh did attend a number of parties in college—including one at Iowa State in 2003. He arrived arm-in-arm with Cyclones’ Head Coach Larry Eustachy, who was friends with Daddy Stan. Eustachy was photographed holding beer cans, hugging girls and exchanging kisses on the cheek.
Witnesses reported he had to be forced into a cab at 4 a.m. Eustachy was fired shortly thereafter. Eustachy was also fired by Colorado State in 2018 after abusing players and staff members. Oh, the company we keep, Stan.
From a Denver Post story hilariously (ironically?) titled, “Josh Kroenke Building a Legacy on His Own,” we learn about his post-Mizzou life. He graduated in 2004 and landed a six-month internship at the NBA’s league office (must interview well). He then worked as an underwriter for Lehman Brothers, a bank that definitely did not collapse disgracefully/embarrassingly in 2008.
Daddy Stan Josh had the foresight to jump ship before the Mortgage Crisis. In 2007 he started taking various jobs within the Avalanche and Nuggets organizations. In just three years Josh’s Daddy’s name hard work earned granted him the title of President of the Nuggets and Governor of the Avalanche. This meteoric and completely deserved rise culminated in 2018 with his appointment as Vice Chairman of KSE.
The Origins of the Kroenke Fortune
The Kroenkes love to brand their success as the result of hard work, but the simple truth is Stan Kroenke grew up in an upper-middle-class family. He would’ve been just an heir to a lumber company with an MBA from Mizzou if it weren’t for a fateful ski trip to Aspen in the 1970s. Somehow Daddy Stan found himself on a ski-lift meet-cute with the heiress to a real fortune—Ann Walton. You know Wal-Mart? Yeah, that Ann Walton. The very same Waltons who just shelled out $4.65 billion to buy the Denver Broncos.
Stan tells everyone he’s a “self-made” man, that he made his own fortune in real estate. But his Kroenke Group, which wasn’t founded until nine years after he married into to the Walton family, owed its success to developing shopping centers, many of which were anchored by, you guessed it, Wal-Marts. His pulled-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps persona doesn’t hold up well to even an ounce of scrutiny, which is probably why Stan avoids the media.
Josh Kroenke, like his dad, is also a bit of a recluse. Before Friday, June 3, Josh hadn’t spoken to the media in four years. Imagine watching the summer Olympics more often than hearing from who is essentially the owner of your favorite team.
Revenue Over Championships
When the Kroenkes aren’t throwing accelerant on division rivalries, they’re alienating the fans of their teams. The family’s notorious frugality and robotic ambition has created legions of disaffected fans from Denver to London.
In 2019, DISH Network and Comcast’s 15-year contracts with the Kroenke-owned Altitude Sports Channel, expired. Not long after, Altitude sued Comcast in Federal court for antitrust violations, claiming that Comcast is trying to drive Altitude out of business. It hasn’t made negotiations easy. For three seasons, most Nuggets and Avalanche fans have been unable to watch games from home. The Nuggets, a perennial playoff team with a two-time MVP, are on pace to have the lowest local TV rating in the NBA in at least the past 15 years.
An American Billionaire-Wolf in London
Across the pond the Kroenkes have fared even worse. After taking full ownership of the English Premier League club Arsenal F.C. in 2018, the Kroenkes attempted to dismantle the European Football system in 2021 by making Arsenal a founding member of the European Super League.
The backlash from fans was so vicious that the planned league was abandoned, and fans protested, calling for the Kroenke family to sell the club. The family, of course, refused the peasants’ requests.
Arsenal F.C., is struggling on and off the pitch (the club’s value fell 27% in the past year), and the Nuggets let their best executive get poached by a division rival, when they could’ve just paid him. Billionaires, man. Am I right? Here’s a pretty scathing review of their handling of the Nuggets:
“That concept shows in everything the past few years, from refusing to pay executives and staff their market rate to stubbornly holding ground that costs customers in the short and long-term. KSE’s fight with Comcast drags on, heading for a fourth year where fans cannot watch the team play on the dominant cable provider in the state. Stan Kroenke could have settled it, could have paid to have his team shown even, to show off the contender he has poured millions upon millions into creating. He did not. He will not. It’s not in his nature.”“The Kroenke legacy is in jeopardy with Nuggets fans” by Gordon Gross. May 21, 2022. SB Nation. DenverStiffs.com.
Better to be Valuable than Good
There is a giant caveat to all of this—the family did win a Super Bowl with the Rams and the Avalanche are on the cusp of a Stanley Cup. But like Rocky Mountain air, the Kroenke approach has worn thin in Denver. Ownership values profit over championships—teams are assets whose value must be inflated.
There are no shareholders here—only Stan and Ann Kroenke-Walton, whose combined net worth is nearly $20 billion. KSE is the second-most-valuable sports entity on the planet, according to Forbes, valued at $10.5 billion. There is no reason to pinch pennies, but they seem pretty desperate to squeeze whatever they can out of their investments.
Go Lightning and/or Rangers. And in the spirit of this new Minnesota-Colorado rivalry: go Target.