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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. On a sunny day in July 2014, just as the Denver Broncos were about to open their third training camp with quarterback Peyton Manning, then-team president Joe Ellis issued a statement leading to the franchise being put up for sale.
Ellis let it be known that Broncos majority owner Pat Bowlen would no longer be part of the team’s surgeries due to Alzheimer’s disease. The Bowl had been a charismatic daily presence in the team complex over the course of three decades with success that included more Super Bowl trips than lost seasons.
“It’s a day of immense grief for the Bowlen family, all our staff, the people around the National Football League and this region and this community,” Ellis said. “Pat wants us to do two things. He wants us to win, he always wanted to and will continue to want to. He also always wanted everyone here to do things the right way.”
A lot has happened in the eight years since that announcement in July. Since Bowlen died in 2019, there have been legal battles, court hearings and harsh words in his family about ownership. The team was officially put up for sale on February 1st; and this week, four groups were approved to submit their second bidding round for what is expected to be the biggest team sale in North American sports history.
Sources confirmed this week that a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton, a group led by Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris, a group led by Mat Ishbia and a group led by Jose Feliciano and Behdad Eghbali were invited to second round of bids.
Many in the NFL expect the franchise’s new owner to be revealed at the end of the month, with a final deal at the start of the regular season. How did we get to this point, and where do things go from here? Here are the answers:
Why are the Broncos for sale?
Bowlen never formally declared a successor to his majority ownership among his children, and when he stepped down from day-to-day operations, he got his interest in the team (estimated to be around 78% at the time) placed in a trust by Ellis, Broncos- consultant Rich Slivka and Denver attorney Mary Kelly.
At one point, in 2015, the administrators sent Annabel – Bowlen’s widow – and the children a formal overview of what it takes to be the main owner. This overview included an advanced degree as well as five years of senior management experience with an NFL team or league office. The bowl’s hope had been that one of them would show up as the main owner and be installed by the team’s trustees. If no agreement could be reached on which child should be the main owner, the team would be sold.
The request of Beth Bowlen Wallace, one of Bowlen’s daughters from his first marriage, to become the controlling owner was rejected by the administrators. Brittany Bowlen, one of Bowlen’s daughters after his marriage to Annabel, had Ellis’ public support and a leadership position with the Broncos. But all seven children had to agree on the curators’ selection of a main owner, and once selected, the other six could not sell their interests in the team.
The result was a lawsuit filed by Beth Bowlen Wallace and Amie Klemmer – Bowlen’s two eldest daughters – who accused the trust of not being valid because, according to the case, Bowlen did not understand what he was signing due to the development of his Alzheimer’s disease.
The trial was rejected in 2021 before a trial was due to begin, amid reports that a settlement could have been reached behind the scenes. None of the pages have commented since.
When did they officially go on sale?
In January, a final legal hurdle to a sale was cleared when a Denver judge ruled that the heirs of former Broncos owner Edgar Kaiser Jr. could not repurchase any part of the franchise as part of a pre-emption agreement.
A holding group representing Kaiser’s property had asked the court to deny any sales of the franchise going back to when Kaiser sold the team to Pat Bowlen in 1984. Kaiser died in 2012.
Denver District Judge Shelley I. Gilman ruled that Kaiser’s heirs had no claim, and the right of first refusal included in the 1984 sale agreement between Kaiser and Bowlen was “no longer valid or enforceable in any respect.”
The franchise was officially put up for sale on February 1st.
What is the price?
The process, which includes a large dose of confidentiality agreements, includes Steve Greenberg of Allen & Company as financial advisor and Joe Leccese of Proskauer Rose LLP as legal advisor to the administrators.
In the fall of 2021, the Forbes estimated the Broncos at $ 3.75 billion; However, the Broncos are expected to bring in well over $ 4 billion and potentially $ 4.5 billion. The Carolina Panthers currently hold the record for most paid for an NFL franchise. David Tepper bought the team for $ 2.275 billion in 2018. The highest paid ever for a North American sports franchise was $ 2.475 billion by Steven Cohen to buy the New York Mets in 2020.
Last month, a group led by Todd Boehly, which has interests in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Lakers among its large portfolio, bought Chelsea in the English Premier League for more than $ 5 billion.
Bowlen and his siblings paid $ 78 million in 1984 to control interest in the Broncos. Bowlen later bought the shares in his sister and two brothers.
Who are the candidates to buy?
Another round of formal bids for the Broncos was due on Monday, and several sources have said they believe four groups are involved, but many with the Broncos have privately claimed they do not know which groups are still running, as The trustees are controlling the sale.
These groups are led by Walton, Harris, Ishbia and Feliciano / Eghbali, according to sources.
Walton’s net worth, estimated by Forbes at just over $ 59 billion, makes him a favorite. Stan Kroenke, who owns the Los Angeles Rams, Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets and Colorado Rapids as well as a regional media network in Colorado, is married to Ann Walton, also a Walmart heir.
Ultimately, trustees are bound by the original trust documents to take the largest verified bid. The NFL told interested parties that all bids must be fully funded or “capitalized” when submitted. That means all groups need at least $ 2.5 billion in cash available right away.
Have the bidders checked the goods out?
The shop stewards and team officials have met with the potential bidders. They have visited the team’s facilities as well as Empower Field on Mile High and have been briefed on the team’s place in the local community and region.
Ellis has publicly said that a new owner who is “visible” in and around the team is important to the trustees.
Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said earlier this week that he had met “a solid amount” of potential bidders, adding: “After talking to everyone, I think they all have a great passion and want to be a part of “This league and they want to be part of a team. I think it’s something that’s really beautiful. They want to come and win and they want to do something great here.”
What needs to happen to close the deal?
After the most recent bidding round, trustees can accept a bid or move two finalists on to a new round. Once a bid is selected, the new owner must meet with the NFL’s Finance Committee before the terms of the sale come to the league owners for a vote. It takes 24 yes votes to approve the sale.
A special meeting could be convened and a vote taken by the owners in July or August, or the vote could come at a previously scheduled owners meeting after the start of the NFL’s regular season.
Ellis has consistently said he believes a new owner would be in place when the Broncos meet the Seattle Seahawks in the opening game in September. 12, but he also added: “Do not hold on to it.”