Titans owner K.S. 'Bud' Adams dies at age 90

Succession plan calls for grandson to take reins

Friday, October 18, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 42
By Terry McCormick

Titans owner K.S. "Bud" Adams at the Titans-Texans game, December 2012.

-- Joe Howell, Associated Press

The only era the Tennessee Titans franchise has ever known came to an end this morning when franchise owner K.S. "Bud" Adams died at his Houston home. He was 90.

Adams founded the team as the Houston Oilers in 1959 as part of the American Football League, which began play in 1960 with eight teams and owners who became known as "The Foolish Club" for attempting to take on the established National Football League.

Leadership of the team will likely fall to Adams' grandson, Kenneth S. Adams IV, 28, Adams said in a 2011 interview with the Nashville Ledger.

Adams, along with founding AFL owners Lamar Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs (Dallas Texans originally) and Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills saw the project through to a merger with the NFL a decade later that turned their initial $25,000 investment into a multi-million dollar success.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called Adams a pioneer and innovator and extended the league's sympathies to Adams' family.

"As a founding owner of the American Football League that began play in 1960, Bud saw the potential of pro football and brought the game to new cities and new heights of popularity, first in Houston and then in Nashville," Goodell said in a statement. "He was a brilliant entrepreneur with a terrific sense of humor that helped lighten many a tense meeting."

Kenneth S. Adams IV, grandson of Bud Adams

-- Paul Spinelli, Associated Press

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said "I want to extend condolences on my behalf, but also on behalf of all the citizens of Nashville, to Mr. Adam’s family and his Titans family.
"Bud Adams is a very important figure in the history of Nashville. Bringing the Titans here was an enormous event in the history of the city. It put us up in the major leagues. It was an event that moved our city forward and has been overwhelmingly positive.
"I had several opportunities to meet with Mr. Adams over the years and he was always a very gracious, kind person. I’m personally thankful for his generosity with the many different charities that he has supported here in Nashville. I’m particularly thankful in recent years for the support the Titans have given us on our city health initiatives, hosting events at LP Field.
"Mr. Adams lived a full life and he will certainly be missed."

Adams' Oilers were the dominant team in the early days of the AFL winning the league's first two titles in 1960 and '61.

During his 54-year tenure as owner, Adams endured many ups and downs with the franchise with highlights including the Luv Ya Blue era of the late '70s with Coach Bum Phillips, who died this past weekend.

His 409 wins were the most of any current NFL owner.

Other highs included making seven straight postseason appearances in the '80s and '90s with quarterback Warren Moon, and linemen that included current Titans head coach Mike Munchak and current offensive line coach Bruce Matthews.

All three are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But Adams’ biggest move, other than founding the franchise and merging it with the NFL, was his move to Tennessee in 1997. It marked the first major professional sports team to call Tennessee home.

The transition culminated with the franchise's only Super Bowl appearance following the 1999 season. That was also the team's first year as the Titans and first season in its current stadium home now known as LP Field.

Adams' full bio can be found on the Titans website 

The arrival of the Titans and the NHL expansion Nashville Predators in 1998 signaled a new day for Nashville, as the city became recognized as a viable and legitimate metropolitan city due in part to the pro sports coming to town. Adams and then-Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen were instrumental in making the Titans and pro sports a reality in Music City.

In recent years – and especially following the death of his wife Nancy in 2009 – Adams took less of a role in the day-to-day operation of the club. His declining health and being 800 miles away from the club played a huge role in that.

In 2011, Adams told The Nashville Ledger he had a succession plan in place that included his grandson, Kenneth Adams IV, playing a vital role in running the Titans.

“I think he’s gonna develop into being one of our leaders down the road,” Bud Adams said. “I think he likes what he’s doing, and he works absolutely hard."

The younger Adams, now 28, began learning the ropes of virtually every aspect of the organization in 2006 after graduating from The University of The South. He currently serving as administrative assistant to Senior Executive Vice President/General Counsel Elza Bullock.

Also, the families of Adams two surviving daughters, Susie Smith and Amy Strunk, will also inherit a share of the team. Past indications are that neither of them has an interest in running the daily operations of the club.

Adams was born in Bartlesville, Okla., to the future chief executive of Phillips Petroleum Co., K.S. "Boots" Adams.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.