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Potential buyers for Broncos narrowed

No less than five finalists emerge, including Walmart heir Rob Walton
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Posted at 6:35 PM, Apr 18, 2022

DENVER — Finding the next Broncos owner has moved into the next stage with no less than five prospective buyers, narrowed from a list of in excess of 13, according to a Denver7 source.

The interest in the iconic NFL franchise has been impressive, and the pace of the process suggests a new owner could be in place before training camp opens during the last week of July.

CEO Joe Ellis, who will exit after helping with the transition, has said multiple times that the goal is to have a new owner in place before the regular season begins in September.

In February, the team was placed up for auction after Pat Bowlen’s children could not agree on a successor among them.

The team started the sale process 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.

Sportico reported Monday that there are five finalists. Denver7 has been told that the groups could begin visiting UCHealth Training Center this month or in May as the bidding enters the final stage. The trust has a fiduciary duty to accept the highest bid.

Sportico listed three finalists. Two have been reported and known for a few weeks — Rob Walton, son of Helen and Sam Walton and an heir to the Walmart fortune, and New Jersey Devils owner and Philadelphia 76ers managing partner Josh Harris. The third buyer listed was a group led by Todd Boehly, who is an investor in the Dodgers and Los Angeles Lakers.

The interest in the first stage was considered unprecedented, and there could be more than five bidders that emerge in this next stage. The purpose of visits would be to meet management and learn more about the real estate possibilities surrounding UCHealth Training Center and Empower Field.

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. Greenberg, the financial adviser the Broncos are using, is the 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.

At this point, no one would be surprised if it reaches in excess of $4.5 billion. That number is why Rob Walton is considered a frontrunner. His net worth is estimated at roughly $70 billion, meaning he would not require any partners or a group. The NFL has been hopeful of a minority buyer emerging or having representation in a bid.

Harris has ties to the NFL. He became a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Tepper took this route before purchasing the Panthers.

According to Forbes, Boehly helped found Eldridge Industries, an investment firm, in 2015 after "building Guggenheim Partners' credit business and serving as president." The firm has invested in Bruce Springsteen's song rights to DraftKings.

Boehly has teamed with Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss to bid on Chelsea FC in the English Premier League, per Forbes. Sportico reports that that Harris is also in the running for the Chelsea soccer team as well.