Stan Kroenke (1947–) is a Missouri-based billionaire whose extensive portfolio of real estate and sports franchises includes Denver’s Nuggets (basketball), Avalanche (hockey), Rapids (soccer), and Mammoth (lacrosse), as well as Ball Arena, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and the Altitude Sports and Entertainment channel. He also owns Denver’s Paramount Theatre and is the main investor behind the River Mile development planned for the site of Elitch Gardens. His other holdings include the Los Angeles Rams, SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, London’s Arsenal soccer team, and some 2 million acres of ranchland in the United States and Canada. Married to Wal-Mart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke, Kroenke is worth an estimated $8–10 billion as of 2020, and his wife is worth an additional $6–8 billion.
Early Life and Family
Enos Stanley Kroenke was born on July 29, 1947, to Evelyn and Alvin Kroenke in Mora, Missouri, about eighty miles southeast of Kansas City. He was named for Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial, two Hall of Fame baseball players for the St. Louis Cardinals. His father owned the Mora Lumber Company, and by the time Stan was ten, he was helping out by sweeping floors and keeping accounts. At Cole Camp High School near Mora, he played for the basketball team and earned a reputation as a top student. He went on to the University of Missouri, where he earned a BA in economics in 1969. After graduation, he invested in a local clothing store and attended business school, earning a master of business administration degree in 1973.
The year he earned his MBA, Kroenke met Ann Walton, the oldest daughter of Wal-Mart cofounder James “Bud” Walton, while on vacation in Aspen. They married in 1974 and have two children, Whitney (1977) and Josh (1980). Their primary residence remains the college town of Columbia, Missouri. Perhaps as a result of his small-town, Lutheran background, Kroenke has developed a reputation as “Silent Stan” for his aversion to the media and relatively modest lifestyle.
In 1975 Kroenke started his career in real estate by taking a job with developer Raul Walters, who had already built several Wal-Mart stores. Kroenke became a partner at Walters’s firm four years later. Together they developed more than twenty retail malls across the Midwest, many of them anchored by large Wal-Marts. In 1985 Kroenke started his own development company, the Kroenke Group, which continued to specialize in shopping centers anchored by Wal-Marts, and in 1990 he helped start THF Realty, which also developed shopping centers around Wal-Marts and other big-box stores. Today Kroenke controls about 30 million square feet of commercial real estate.
As Kroenke’s wealth grew, he started to invest in sports franchises. After failing to land an NFL expansion team for St. Louis in 1993, two years later he helped convince the Rams to move from Los Angeles to St. Louis and acquired a minority stake in the team.
At the end of the 1990s, he formed Kroenke Sports Enterprises (now Kroenke Sports and Entertainment) as he planned more acquisitions. In 2000 he entered the Denver market with a splash, buying the Nuggets, the Avalanche, and the recently built Pepsi Center (now Ball Arena) where they played for more than $400 million. Two years later he added the Colorado Mammoth, an indoor lacrosse team that moved to the Pepsi Center, and in 2004 he bought the Colorado Rapids soccer team from his friend and fellow billionaire Philip Anschutz. That year he started the Altitude Sports and Entertainment channel to broadcast the games of his Denver sports franchises. He then built the Rapids a $71 million stadium, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, which opened in 2007. In the 2000s, Kroenke also had a stake in the Colorado Crush indoor football team before it folded in the wake of the Great Recession.
In addition to his sports franchises and facilities, Kroenke owns or operates a variety of other Denver-area shopping centers and entertainment venues. Most notably, in 2002 he bought the historic Paramount Theatre in downtown Denver, and in 2009 he and Anschutz formed a partnership to take over operations at Broomfield’s 1stBank Center.
In the early twenty-first century, Kroenke Sports and Entertainment became the single-largest owner of major sports franchises in the world. Across the Atlantic, Kroenke became a minority owner in the Arsenal Football Club in 2007 and worked steadily to gain greater control. By 2011 he had a majority stake, and in 2019 he became the sole owner despite the enmity of the squad’s English fans, who believed he didn’t adequately support the team.
Closer to home, Kroenke took full ownership of the St. Louis Rams in 2010. NFL rules required him to relinquish control of his major professional teams in other markets where the league had a presence. Over the next few years, he shifted control of the Nuggets and Avalanche to his wife, Ann, and installed his son, Josh, a former college basketball player at the University of Missouri, as president of the Denver teams. In St. Louis, meanwhile, Kroenke soon earned the city’s hatred when he decided to move the team back to Los Angeles, where his stadium proposal beat out a competing plan from Anschutz. The NFL approved the move in 2016, and Kroenke spent the next four years building the team a $5 billion facility, SoFi Stadium, which opened in 2020 as the centerpiece of a 300-acre development.
In addition to his sports teams, Kroenke owns several wineries in the United States and France, as well as about a dozen ranches totaling roughly 2 million acres in Arizona, Montana, Texas, Wyoming, and British Columbia. With holdings including the 800-square-mile Waggoner Ranch in Texas, he is the fifth-largest landowner in the United States.
Like Anschutz, who built the L.A. Live complex beside the Staples Center in the early 2000s, Kroenke is planning several large developments around his sports facilities. In 2015 he joined Revesco Properties and Second City Real Estate to buy Elitch Gardens, which is adjacent to Ball Arena, for $140 million. Over the next twenty-five years, the new owners plan to move the amusement park and replace it with a sixty-two-acre development full of office towers, condominiums, and parks along the South Platte River. Approved by the city in 2018, the proposed neighborhood would expand downtown Denver by about 20 percent, adding 12–15 million square feet and some 15,000 residents to the area. The plan promises that 15 percent of the neighborhood’s residences will be offered at below-market rates, but more recently elected councilmembers such as Candi CdeBaca remain concerned that Denver’s development is pricing many people out of the city. In conjunction with River Mile, development partners assume that Kroenke will also develop Ball Arena’s fifty acres of parking lots, providing a connection from River Mile to the Auraria Higher Education Center and downtown Denver.
Meanwhile, at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Kroenke is planning a 250-acre development called Victory Crossing Park, which would be adjacent to Denver’s Central Park neighborhood and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.