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Page last updated at 12:38 GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

In search of 'Silent Stan'

Kroenke (middle) with fellow Crush owners Pat Bowlen (left) and NFL great John Elway (right) after the team's Arena Bowl XIX success in 2005
Kroenke (middle) owns several sport franchises, among them Colorado Crush

By Brian Alexander
BBC Radio 5 live

Denver is the 24th biggest city in the United States, but it punches way above its weight in sporting terms. Sitting in the offices of Kroenke Sports Enterprises in the enormous Pepsi Center, you get an immediate sense of one man's influence.

Stan Kroenke owns the multi-purpose venue, home to his National Basketball Association and National Hockey League teams Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche. He also owns the TV network that broadcasts their matches live across Colorado.

Just across town is the Dick's Sporting Goods Park, where Kroenke's Major League Soccer team Colorado Rapids play in an impressive purpose-built stadium.

Even nearer are his National Lacrosse League and Arena Football League teams Colorado Mammoth and Colorado Crush.

He is passionate about his sport and is driven to win... he's a regular guy and a tremendous visionary

Paul Andrews
Kroenke's right-hand man

What you can't see from the Mile High City are two of Kroenke's other major franchise investments: the St Louis Rams of the National Football League (he relocated the franchise from Los Angeles to the state of his birth in Missouri in 1995) and his latest sporting interest, Arsenal FC.

Kroenke, a 62-year-old American with an estimated wealth of $3.5bn, has been stealthily buying shares in the Premier League outfit for some time and has reached the critical holding of 29.9%. He's just one small step from having to bid for the entire club, a move most believe will happen before the end of the season.

A main board member since September last year, he acquired his latest batch of shares from chairman Peter Hill-Wood, who has shown clear support for Kroenke over rival bidder Alisher Usmanov, the billionaire businessman from Uzbekistan.

During my whistle-stop tour of Kroenke's collection of professional sports for a special programme on BBC Radio 5 live, I saw the Nuggets beat the LA Lakers at the Pepsi Center and the following night witnessed the Avalanche collapse against Vancouver Canucks.

I also sat with former Leicester City and Celtic player Steve Guppy at the Rapids' home ground to watch Brazil beat England on TV. Guppy is assistant coach at Kroenke's MLS team. His boss is Gary Smith, recruited from the Arsenal coaching staff.

Kroenke and Peter Hill-Wood heads for their seat in the directors' box
Kroenke has bought shares from Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood

Kroenke has earned the "Silent Stan" moniker because he rarely, if ever, does on-the-record media interviews.

I got within a whisker of meeting him in the Nuggets' locker room after their win over the Lakers, but he had disappeared moments earlier. The arrival of a BBC journalist to do a programme about him had not gone unnoticed.

But his right-hand man at Kroenke Sports Enterprises, Paul Andrews, agreed to be interviewed.

"It's not fair to call him 'Silent' because in our view we feel it is inappropriate for him to be in the media all of the time," said Andrews.

"He is passionate about his sport and is driven to win. He's a regular guy and a tremendous visionary. If he was sitting with us now, he would be eloquent and respectful.

"We advise him when he should be in the media and not. It's the same as how he runs his business. He has a team of executives who come up with ideas and suggestions, and he is very skilled at sifting through the recommendations and making the ultimate decision."

So why Arsenal? "I will not comment specifically about his interest in the Arsenal team because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter," said Andrews. "But I can assure Arsenal fans that he is passionate, he's a visionary and he's a great leader."

Denver Post reporter Benjamin Hockman follows the Nuggets home and away. He went to the University of Missouri with Kroenke's basketball-playing son, Josh.

"There is something about Stan which suggests that he is 'The Man' as we would say in America," said Hockman. "His is a very wealthy and successful man who loves his sports. He is stoic, but he's a genuine sports fan who also happens to be a billionaire."

You only have to look around here to see that the owner likes his sport

Former Leicester City and Celtic player Steve Guppy on Kroenke

Ten miles outside downtown Denver is Commerce City, where the Colorado Rapids are based.

Set in countless acres of Kroenke-owned land sits an 18,000 all-seater stadium with modern clean lines and surrounded by 20 floodlit all-weather training pitches to cope with the huge number of children playing football in the state.

Kroenke has made his fortune from property and building shopping malls. He had already accumulated considerable wealth of his own before marrying an heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune. A major retail and residential development is planned around the Rapids arena, too.

"You only have to look around here to see that the owner likes his sport," said Guppy, who finally ended his playing career after a spell with Rochester Rhinos in New York State last year. "The infrastructure is strong and it is all set up to be successful."

And following Kroenke's interest in the Premier League, the former England international, who earned one cap, added: "It's great to have an association with such a massive club as Arsenal."

When I asked Guppy if the Rapids would be able to benefit by having access to a few Arsenal squad players to improve the Rapids team, he responded with a smile: "It would be nice to think that one day in the future we might be supplying a few players to Arsenal."

The final word goes to recently-retired NHL goaltender Kevin Weekes, now the Gary Lineker of ice hockey on CBC television.

"Sport is global and the English Premier League has done a great job embracing all fans from all backgrounds and cultures," he said. "We need to make American sports global. Europe is leading the way in that respect and that might explain Mr Kroenke's interest in Arsenal."

Brian Alexander presents "Silent Stan" on BBC Radio 5 live Sport from 1900 GMT on Tuesday.



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see also
What next for 'Silent Stan' at Arsenal?
05 Nov 09 |  Business
Kroenke nears Arsenal threshold
05 Nov 09 |  Business
Kroenke silent on Arsenal plans
22 Oct 09 |  Arsenal


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