ENGLEWOOD — In the end, the highest bidder will win.
A fiduciary obligation exists for the trustees to sell the Broncos for the most money. Thursday, the process continued moving forward with a visit and a prominent new face linked to one of the ownership groups.
Basketball Hall of Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson has joined Josh Harris' bidding group, per Sportico. Harris is the New Jersey Devils owners and the Philadelphia 76ers managing partner. Harris is pushing to expand his portfolio along with additional Broncos' finalist Todd Boehly. Both have pursued purchasing the Chelsea Football Club.
According to CBS Sports' Ben Jacobs, the takeover of the Chelsea club by Boehly's group is nearing completion. If Boehly wins the bid, it is unclear if he would remain in the mix for the Broncos.
Even as Walmart heir Rob Walton remains the front-runner because of his $70 billion net worth, Harris is firmly in the running. Harris has met with Broncos executives, first reported by 9News, and was expected to visit team headquarters and Empower Field at Mile High to gain a better understanding of the team's real estate holdings. Johnson joining Harris' group will be welcomed by the NFL, which is seeking minority representation in the Broncos' new ownership.
A team source "strongly" refuted a story in The Denver Gazette that the Broncos have narrowed their bidding to two finalists. Multiple groups are scheduled to meet with the team and tour the facilities over the next few weeks, according to Denver7 sources, which was first reported three weeks ago. The current finalist group is expected to include as many as five groups — only three have been identified from an excess of 13 that were originally involved — and others could still emerge.
It will come down to the bidding — how much does a prospective buyer want the team in a sale that it is expected to break an American sports record?
The current record paid for an American sports franchise is $3.3 billion for the Brooklyn Nets, which involved real estate. The Panthers own the NFL record, sold for $2.275 billion to David Tepper.
The team started the sale process following the season by retaining Steve Greenberg of Allen & Company as its financial adviser and Joe Leccese of Proskauer Rose LLP as its legal adviser for the ownership transition.
Greenberg, the financial adviser the Broncos are using, is the son of baseball Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg and part of Allen & Company, which brokered or advised deals for the Mets, Nets and Panthers.
Per NFL rules, there must be one controlling stake in any ownership group of 30 percent, meaning $1.2 billion of the purchase price reaches $4 billion. Given the current interest, it will be no surprise if the final bid exceeds this amount. The goal is to have a new owner in place before the Broncos open their 2022 season.
Peyton Manning has not been connected to any prospective Broncos' ownership group, but has expressed interest in team's future as a Denver resident and fan of the team. John Elway, now a Broncos' consultant, has made public his desire to be part of a bidding ownership group as well.