SANTA ANA, Calif. -- The owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are serious enough about moving their team to St. Louis that they consulted an expert on that city's prospects for pro football -- Los Angeles Rams president John Shaw.
Two members of the trust that controls the Buccaneers, plus team general manager Rich McKay, met with Shaw yesterday in Los Angeles.
"We compared notes, that kind of thing. . . We caught up with each other on where we were with St. Louis," Shaw said. "Nobody should read too much into this."
Shaw has been working for months on a possible Rams move to St. Louis. The city, through its civic-sponsored football group FANS Inc., is believed to be offering a rent-free, 70,000-seat stadium, ticket guarantees and future advertising revenue.
But the Rams are no longer the only team looking at St. Louis.
Stan Kroenke, a Missouri real estate developer who also has bid for the Rams, is trying to buy the Bucs and move the team to St. Louis. A Bucs trustee said last week Kroenke will be given a serious chance to buy the team, which is expected to be sold by the end of this year or early '95. Kroenke's net worth has been tabbed as high as $800 million.
Kroenke isn't the only one scrambling to buy the Bucs. Others include Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who wants the team for his city, and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who lives in Florida. Yesterday, Boca Raton, Fla., developer Norton Herrick said he will lead a bid to keep the team in Tampa.
The Tampa Bay Sports Authority, eager to keep the Bucs, plans to release a study on how to renovate Tampa Stadium within three weeks. A renovated stadium is believed to be critical to keeping the team in Tampa.
But a football financial expert said yesterday the Bucs are worth a lot more if they move.
"The team is worth, what, $142 million in Tampa Bay? But it's worth $175 million to $200 million in St. Louis or Baltimore," said Paul Much, an analyst with the Chicago office of banking firm Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin.
L Shaw said there is no urgency in negotiating with St. Louis.