DENVER – Beth Bowlen Wallace issued a statement Wednesday in which she said that her late father, Pat Bowlen, “would never have accepted the team’s current state” and hinted that a possible sale of the team to new ownership would be the best path moving forward.
Bowlen Wallace, who is Pat Bowlen’s second-oldest child and among seven, issued the statement Wednesday after an Arapahoe County judge set a July 12, 2021 trial date for the lawsuit she and her sister, Amie Klemmer, filed against the three-person trust of President/CEO Joe Ellis, team counsel Rich Slivka and Denver attorney Mary Kelly regarding the mental capacity of Pat Bowlen when amendments were made over the years. The trial was postponed earlier this year.
The trust was empowered in 2009 as a way to decide who was succeed Bowlen should he die or become incapacitated. He stepped down from ownership in 2014 because of Alzheimer’s and died last year. The trustees — whom Bowlen Wallace and Klemmer, along with their uncle, have tried to remove — have argued that the late Bowlen was mentally aware of what he was doing when signing the documents in 2009.
The statement from Bowlen Wallace reads as follows:
“My sister Amie, my uncle John Bowlen and I have had the privilege, along with all fans that bleed orange and blue, of seeing what a winning team looks like. Watching these past few seasons has been extremely painful and we continue to see no other way to restore the franchise for our fans but through a transition of ownership of the Denver Broncos.
“My father Pat Bowlen would never have accepted the team’s current state. Fortunately, my father’s legacy as one of the NFL’s greatest owners has been solidified at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. We will forever reflect on the over 30 years of ownership that got him there with great pride. Our desire is for this team to be restored to its winning ways and to see more Super Bowl championships for Broncos Country. We have been committed to and will continue to pursue resolutions on all issues in order to ensure a smooth and timely transition.
“We are hopeful that the current leadership agrees that this is in the best interests of the Denver Broncos and most importantly, it is in the best interests of our incredibly loyal fans, my father’s legacy and the Bowlen family.”
Bowlen Wallace noted that she hopes for a “smooth and timely transition” – which strongly suggests she supports a likely outside sale.
Wednesday night, Hugh Gottschalk, attorney for Annabel Bowlen, the surviving spouse of Pat Bowlen and the primary beneficiary of the Patrick D. Bowlen Trust, issued a statement in response.
"Ms. Wallace does not represent my client’s views or the views of the majority of the beneficiaries. Moreover, Ms. Wallace has filed a lawsuit that alleges that Mr. Bowlen lacked the capacity to execute the estate planning documents that appointed the Trustees, and that the Trustees therefore have no authority. Although we strongly disagree with these allegations and believe the estate plan will be upheld at the trial scheduled for July of 2021, any efforts to even consider selling the team before the Trustees’ authority is confirmed is unwise and impractical, and would be contrary to Pat Bowlen’s wishes to have the Bowlen family continue to own the Broncos if one of his children develops the ability to take over the role of Controlling Owner."
There is nothing preventing the pursuit of the sale of the team. However, it is fair to argue that there would be a cloud over any potential sale as a trial looms in July. In an interview with Denver7 Wednesday night, Gottschalk added that ,“Responsive to Beth’s statement, I believe the majority of the beneficiaries do not want to sell the team. ... As Annabel’s attorney I participated in the depositions and the other parts of litigation so far. We believe that a settlement is not possible and that we are going to need to go to trial in July to confirm the Trustees' authority to act on behalf of the trust."
It is believed the siblings have to sign off on one of them to be appointed to be controlling owner of the team as chosen by the three-person trust. Ellis said last December that a sale could potentially happen if there is not agreement among the siblings.
“[I]t is an option, and we’ve told the beneficiaries that, because if Brittany were to succeed and take over for her father, everybody else is going to have to sign off on that, most likely,” Ellis said at the time. “That may not be a requirement, but it’s going to be necessary, I think, moving forward from a trustee viewpoint. That’s why a sale remains a possibility I think — given the circumstances we’re in.”
But the NFL can now issue fines of up to $10 million each year to teams that do not have one person holding the minimum equity in the team who has final say in team matters, as Sports Business Daily and Pro Football Talk reported.
Denver7 reached out to Joe Ellis for comment Wednesday and has not yet heard back.
This is a developing story that will be updated.