Stan Kroenke’s Long Con Has Just Started

Reading Time: 3 minutes

You thought Stan Kroenke wanted a team in Los Angeles? I don’t think so. I think Stan is playing a long con. And I think it’s a brilliant strategy.

Los Angeles is a terrible market for football teams, but it’s a fantastic market for the NFL. It would be a perfect place to build a permanent home for the Super Bowl. Los Angeles has fantastic weather, great attractions, and a huge pool of football fans, fans of every team in the NFL. Except the Rams.

And you might think I’m crazy, but you’ll want to bookmark this post for later reference. It could make you look very smart some day.

Let’s look at what we know about Kroenke, the Rams, and the NFL.

  1. Kroenke is a real estate investor who happens to own a few professional sports teams. He made his billions building strip malls that he rented to Walmart and other retailers. (The Walmart plaza by my house is a Kroenke Properties mall.) His first love is real estate deals, and he’s shady.
  2. Many people who’ve done business with Kroenke were financially ruined. Kroenke always sets up the deals so he can take everything when he wants. Just ask St. Louis.
  3. The NFL is about money and only about money. Just ask any of the former NFL players who have to beg for money from their wheelchairs like Conrad Dobler.
  4. The NFL wants a team in London, and they want it soon.
  5. Stan Kroenke wanted the Rams to play numerous games in London while they were in St. Louis, but the team’s contract with the city of St. Louis prohibited it. Kroenke didn’t like that.
  6. Kroenke learned that cities will throw money at an NFL franchise to entice the owners to move to their city.
  7. Kroenke plans to build an NFL palace in Inglewood, California. Not a Rams palace, an NFL palace.
  8. Support for the Rams in Los Angeles faded quickly after an initial surge at the start of the 2016 season.
  9. Support for Los Angeles NFL home teams was weak throughout the late 1980s and 1990s.

Here’s my prediction: Stan Kroenke will build the NFL palace in Los Angeles, then move the Rams to London. The stadium in LA will become the permanent home of the Super Bowl, plus the site of marquee match-ups throughout the season. Los Angeles will be happy because they’ll get to see more of their favorite teams in these marquee games, the NFL will have a destination-city address, and Stan will sell the Rams to London investor after getting a sweet deal to move the team to the UK.

This was Stan’s long con. He’ll get a lot of help from other owners to build the LA complex. He’ll get the NFL to sign a contract for use of the facilities that will cover his investment. It’s what he does, and he’s better at it than anyone else in the NFL. Then he’ll get a similar deal in London, move the team, and dump it. He’ll hold onto the properties and adjacent properties. He’ll clean up.

This is pure speculation, but Kroenke could make more money my way than by keeping the Rams in LA.

I’m not sure when this will play out, but it will be after the new stadium opens and before the Rams become a contender. (Okay, just about everything will happen before the Rams become a contender.)

When you see news stories about Stan Kroenke buying land in the UK, get ready. Until then, you can tell people this scenario is your idea and you’ll look like a genius when it unfolds. And if it doesn’t, no one will remember a thing. That’s the great thing about predictions like this one: there’s no way to lose and several ways to win.

Oh, and there’s this from The Guardian:

Even before they have played their first game in LA, the Rams are seizing opportunities to spread themselves around the world. Because they are playing in a temporary stadium – the Los Angeles Coliseum – until their new home opens in 2019, they are subject to an NFL rule requiring them to play an overseas game in each of the next three seasons. While some teams might balk at giving up home games in three straight seasons, the Rams embraced the mandate, agreeing to honor an already-scheduled game in London this fall and to play a 2018 regular season game in China.

“This is philosophical, I think. There are people who will view change as a challenge and there are people who view change as an opportunity,” said Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice president of international. “In the Rams point of view this is an opportunity. This is a chance to re-frame how they view their franchise for the future.”

Expect that re-frame to end when the Rams move across the Atlantic.

You Don’t Hear “Big Data” Much Anymore, And For That I’m Thankful

Reading Time: 4 minutes

This is about Big Data.

You really can’t over-estimate what suckers business people are.

I’m not talking about people who create things or improve things. Guys like Steve Jobs and Donald Trump built great businesses. But they weren’t business people. They were builders. Running a business was a necessary evil that allowed them the freedom to build what they wanted to build. They were great businessmen because they cared about the work their companies did. Just like every small business owner who has the courage to strike out and build a business.

Most business executives, though, are not builders. They’re managers. They don’t really care what their companies do or how their products improve (or hurt) people’s lives. They care about quarterly reports and resource utilization targets. Put another way, Jobs and Trump saw the numbers as the result of their great work; managers see the work as a necessary evil to achieve the numbers.

Big Data was a buzzword for about six years. At first, it was a way for Silicon Valley types to get funding for their startups. Then, it was a way for corporate IT geeks to get funding for internal projects. IT sold Big Data as a way for their companies to “differentiate.”  Then it became a corporate strategic initiative at every company in America when IT convinced managers that “we are the ONLY company that DOESN’T have a Big Data strategy.”

Then Big Data predicted Hillary Clinton’s landslide win with 98% confidence. And Big Data went the way of the Iomega Zip Drive. (I know of very senior executive at a very large beverage company who, in 1996, shifted his entire portfolio, 100%, to Iomega stock.)

In 2012, I attended an innovation symposium. One topic was Big Data. The speaker breathlessly warned that “Big Data Is Coming!” like the Red Coats. As if Big Data were a thing. (In case you’re wondering, “Big Data” means “lots of data” usually about people and their behavior.) He said “Big Data” at least 100 times in a 25-minute presentation. Since I’m a former geek, a lot of people asked me afterwards, “That was such a great talk, but did you understand what we should do about it?” I wasn’t sure. Neither was the speaker. Except “invest” in it. Or invest to stop it. I can’t remember which.

Paul Revere raced through Massachusetts warning that the British were coming, just as our speaker warned “Big Data is coming!” But the people Revere warned had been prepped on what to do when the news came. Warnings about Big Data were useless because most people had no prior arrangements for dealing with the news.

Except for IT.

Corporate IT folks are masters at creating urgent needs for funding. They invented the Y2K bug. (I profited handsomely from that panic from 1997 to 1999.) No one knew exactly what the Y2K bug was, but gullible managers forked over billions and billions of dollars to fix it.

The Big Data invasion was another Y2K bug, only more mysterious. So it needed even more funding. When the election was called for Trump around 2:00 a.m. on November 9, it was like midnight January 1, 2000, all over again. The great IT emergency was dead.

Now, the IT folks have a new emergency that requires billions and billions of funding. IT professionals are A/B testing whether to call it AI (artificial intelligence) or “machine learning.” Both AI and machine learning are real things, but they’ve become buzzwords to seduce money from gullible business executives. That means IT folks are busy finding out what their executives’ greatest fears are, then creating pitch decks that “prove” AI/machine learning is exactly the thing to kill that bogeyman. (I’m watching this A/B testing happen, and it’s amazing to see. When the business execs reject AI for one reason or another, IT simply does a search and replace of “AI” with “machine learning,” pitches the exact same deck a month later, and gets the funding. You can’t make this up.)

What the executives don’t know is that AI and machine learning are both overhyped exaggerations, just like Iomega, Y2K, and Big Data. Says Andrew Orlowski of the Register (via ZeroHedge):

As with the most cynical (or deranged) internet hypesters, the current “AI” hype has a grain of truth underpinning it. Today neural nets can process more data, faster. Researchers no longer habitually tweak their models. Speech recognition is a good example: it has been quietly improving for three decades. But the gains nowhere match the hype: they’re specialised and very limited in use. So not entirely useless, just vastly overhyped. As such, it more closely resembles “IoT”, where boring things happen quietly for years, rather than “Digital Transformation”, which means nothing at all.

The more honest researchers acknowledge as much to me, at least off the record.

The bad news for most people: AI/machine learning will cost a lot of non-techies their jobs over the next few years. IT leaders have gotten really good at bilking gullible managers out of money for buzzwords like Y2K and Big Data. And business people ain’t getting any smarter. The AI bubble will burst after some catastrophe caused by a crappy algorithm—a catastrophe that a hydrocephalic 4-year-old could have anticipated and averted. By then, IT will have a new bogeyman.

But until then, I say do a shot every time you hear “AI” or “machine learning.” That’s what buzzwords are for.