DENVER – After years of uncertainty, if not acrimony, the Broncos will move forward with their ownership transition.
The team will be placed up for auction after Pat Bowlen’s children could not agree on a successor among them. Broncos CEO Joe Ellis announced the decision on Tuesday through a statement by the trust.
The team announced it was starting the sale process and had retained Steve Greenberg of Allen & Company as its financial adviser and Joe Leccese of Proskauer Rose LLP as its legal adviser for the ownership transition.
“Selling an NFL team is a complex process involving numerous parties and league approval procedures. Nonetheless, the trustees hope to have the sale complete by the start of the 2022 season,” the trust, including Ellis, said in a statement. “The Broncos are a special franchise that is part of the fabric of this region, and whoever emerges as the new owner will certainly understand what the team means to our great fans and this community.”
The Pat Bowlen Trust announced today the beginning of a sale process for the Denver Broncos.— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) February 1, 2022
Joe Ellis: “Whoever emerges as the new owner will certainly understand what the team means to our great fans and this community.” pic.twitter.com/ubfPc4TjID
The Bowlen family issued a united statement, providing closure after seven tumultuous years following Bowlen’s public diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2014 and his death in 2019. Per the trust set up by Pat Bowlen, the seven siblings needed to approve one as the controlling voice. The trust identified Brittany Bowlen as their chosen successor, but she didn’t come close to receiving a majority, let alone unanimous support from the siblings. A sale now will proceed.
“With today beginning the Broncos’ transition to new ownership, our family is overwhelmed with gratitude for what this organization and community have meant to us. There are truly no words to express our deep appreciation to all of Broncos Country for its unwavering supporting during the past four decades,” the Bowlen family said in a statement. “…Pat used to say the Broncos belonged to the fans and that ultimately this was their team. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for this incredible ride. It has been the honor of our lifetime.”
“From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for this incredible ride. It has been the honor of our lifetime.”— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) February 1, 2022
A message from the Bowlen family with the Broncos set to transition to new ownership: pic.twitter.com/FP7DJEqiHv
This move comes as no surprise as Denver7 reported earlier this month that this was the expected path. The runway was cleared on Jan. 11 when a Denver District Court judge ruled that the right of first refusal between Edgar Kaiser Jr. and Pat Bowlen – the previous two owners – was “no longer valid or enforceable” and “terminated in its entirety.”
The right of first refusal would not have precluded a sale, but it prevented any unnecessary wrinkles. The Broncos will now go up for auction, as the franchise braces for its first new owner since Pat Bowlen bought the team in 1984. His run will be difficult to match. He won 354 games in 35 years, as the Broncos claimed 13 AFC West titles, made seven Super Bowl appearances, winning three, including their last in 2015. Bowlen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 3, 2019.
The 2015 world title marked a zenith followed by an alarming slide into the abyss. The Broncos have failed to reach the playoffs since – only the Jets can say that – and boast five straight losing seasons for the first time since 1963-72. The lack of ownership, leadership and quarterback defined the slide.
As for the auction, there are expected to be anywhere from five-to-eight bidders. Broncos Hall of Famer Peyton Manning is expected to be part of a group. The Broncos are expected to sell for the most of any team in U.S. sports history, with bids anticipated to exceed $4 billion. The current record is $3.3 billion paid for the Brooklyn Nets. The Panthers own the NFL record, sold for $2.275 million to David Tepper. The financial advisor the Broncos are using, Steve Greenberg, son of baseball Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, is part of Allen & Company that brokered or advised deals for the Mets, Nets and Panthers.
There must be one controlling stake in any ownership group of 30 percent, meaning $1.2 billion if the purchase price reaches $4 billion. That is why Manning would likely be an investor, not the controlling owner.
As for the timing of the process, the goal remains to have the sale finalized by late spring, but it might not be resolved until the start of the 2022 season. The earliest it could be approved is at the owners meetings in Florida at the end of March.
The Broncos have begun picking up the pieces, hiring general manager George Paton a year ago, a new coach in Nathaniel Hackett last week, while seeking a new quarterback.
The transition to new ownership makes this the most eventful offseason in team history.