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Titans ownership issues trace to lack of clear succession plan


NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 2: A Tennessee Titans helmet displays the Futbol Americano logo during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at The Coliseum on October 2, 2005 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Colts defeated the Titans 31-10. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Doug Pensinger

Neither the Titans nor the NFL will talk publicly about the ownership issues that have prompted “daily, weekly, monthly” discussions between the team and the league. Which made it slightly harder to find out the specific nature of the issue.

Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, the dispute arises from the fact that team founder Bud Adams did not establish a clear succession plan prior to his passing. Instead, the team transferred to a trust owned in equal amounts by Adams’ daughters (Susie Adams Smith and Amy Adams Strunk) and the children of his late son, Kenneth Adams III. Equal ownership by three separate branches of the family has prevented any one person from owning the team in the way the NFL contemplates.

The heirs of Bud Adams have attempted to make Strunk the controlling owner by agreement, but an agreement among the three to put Strunk in the ownership role doesn’t satisfy the league’s requirement of a person with the clear, legal power to do the things that a controlling owner must be able to do.

The league regarded the written consent to make Strunk the owner a useful interim step, but the league also does not believe that the move goes far enough over the long haul. Which is why the NFL is expecting something more.

The easiest way to fix the problem would be for Strunk to completely buy out the other two thirds, but Strunk may not have the resources to pull it off. The Titans are trying to come up with other possible solutions, but the league is taking a black-and-white approach to the situation. The league believes that there must be one owner in full legal control of the team, and the Titans currently don’t satisfy that requirement.

If they ultimately can’t, the options will be to fight the league in court -- or to do the thing that the Titans stubbornly insist they won’t be doing: Sell the team.