Denver Broncos’ ownership change caps extreme makeover — and sets the table for a new dynasty

The Denver Broncos announced they have entered a sale agreement with Walmart heir Rob Walton, giving them the richest owner in the league.

The Denver Broncos, who already this year added a bright young coach and an elite quarterback, will soon have new owners with the deepest of pockets. Overnight Tuesday, the team announced that an investment group led by America’s first family of retail have entered an agreement to buy the club for $4.65 billion — the most ever for a North American franchise.

The ownership group includes Rob Walton (the son of Walmart founder Sam Walton), his daughter Carrie Walton Penner and Carrie’s husband Greg Penner.

The Denver Broncos enter an agreement with America’s first family of retail

Rob Walton alone is worth an estimated $67.6 billion, according to Forbes, making him by far the richest owner in NFL history.

The Waltons themselves could have bought the entire AFC West and not even flinched, but there’s even more money involved in this sale. Their ownership group also includes Mellody Hobson, who is chair of the board at Starbucks and a director of JP Morgan.

The inclusion of Hobson, who is Black, in the ownership group is an important step forward for the NFL, whose owners up until now have been almost exclusively white men — which certainly has played a role in the league’s poor record in hiring Black coaches.

The Broncos announced the agreement — which still needs three-quarters approval by the full group of owners — late Tuesday.

The release included the following statement from Rob Walton on behalf of the Walton-Penner ownership group:

“We are thrilled to be selected to move forward with the purchase of the Denver Broncos! Carrie, Greg, and I are inspired by the opportunity to steward this great organization in a vibrant community full of opportunity and passionate fans.

“Having lived and worked in Colorado, we’ve always admired the Broncos. Our enthusiasm has only grown as we’ve learned more about the team, staff, and Broncos Country over the last few months.

“We are excited to announce that Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO of Ariel Investments, has agreed to join our ownership group. Beyond her role at Ariel, Mellody is an influential leader in corporate and civic organizations across the nation.

“Mellody currently serves as Chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation and is also a director of JPMorgan Chase. We know she will bring her strategic acumen and leadership perspective to our team.

“Thank you to Joe Ellis and the staff of the Broncos for the first-class manner in which they have conducted this sale process. In addition, we thank Hogan Lovells for their guidance and support in this effort.

“We look forward to earning the confidence and support of the NFL as we take the next step in this process. When the necessary approval procedures are met, our family is excited to share more with Broncos fans, the organization, and the community.”.

The sale would turn the page on a tumultuous period in Broncos history and provide the club unlimited resources and stability as it goes for a fourth Lombardi Trophy. The late Pat Bowlen, who owned the team from 1984 until his death in 2019, never named a successor.

So shares were placed in a trust. leading to a dispute within the family that led to an untenable power struggle among his heirs.

Not coincidentally, the Broncos have not made the playoffs since 2015, going through three coaching changes since their last appearance.

But now with the team’s future secured, this could be the start of a new dynasty. The Broncos this offseason traded for nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson and hired Nathaniel Hackett, a bright young offensive mind, to be their head coach.

“I have enjoyed getting to know Rob Walton, Carrie Walton Penner, and Greg Penner throughout this process,” Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis said..”Learning more about their background and vision for the Denver Broncos, I am confident that their leadership and support will help this team achieve great things on and off the field.

“… While this purchase and sale agreement is pending approval from the NFL’s finance committee and league ownership, today marks a significant step on the path to an exciting new chapter in Broncos history.”

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