As the Denver Broncos wait until July 28th to get back on the football field, the ownership situation still remains unclear, so what’s the latest on the Broncos ownership situation? When Broncos owner and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Pat Bowlen passed away in June of 2019 due to Alzheimer’s disease, the trustees appointed by Mr. Bowlen set out to find the team’s next owner for the future.
The Bowlen Trust, which was selected by Mr. Bowlen in 2009, includes the team’s current CEO and team president Joe Ellis, Bowlen’s general counsel Rich Slivka, and attorney Mary Kelly. Ellis has stated in the past that Bowlen’s third-oldest daughter, Brittany Bowlen, would be the trust’s choice to take over as controlling owner of the team or the team would be put up for sale. Mr. Bowlen’s succession plan was for one of his seven children to take over as the team’s owner.
In order for Brittany Bowlen to take over control of the team, the beneficiaries of Bowlen’s estate, which includes Aime Bowlen-Klemmer and Beth Bowlen-Wallace, among Bowlen’s other children and brothers, would have to agree that she was fit for the role.
Broncos owner decision may not be decided without court
The late Bowlen’s brother, Bill, filed a legal complaint in October of 2018 to have the trust dissolved completely after Beth was deemed unqualified to run the team by the trust. His complaint entailed that the trustees were not fulfilling Pat’s wishes and that the trust should be removed from power because they were not acting in good faith. The lawsuit was dismissed “in its entirety” by Arapahoe County Court Judge John E. Scipione in August of 2019, which was first reported by Mike Klis, but the battle between the trust and the Bowlen children went on.
Another petition was filed against the trust by daughters, Aime and Beth, who stated that their late father “lacked the required capacity in 2009” to create the trust that exists today due to Alzheimer’s disease. Aime and Beth are among several of the other shareholders of the team that does not believe that Brittany Bowlen should take over as the team’s controlling owner, even though she meets the requirements set by the trust.
The petition filed by the late Bowlen’s daughters claims that the trustees essentially took advantage of Mr. Bowlen’s condition and altered a procession agreement that had previously been signed in 2002. No one is quite clear what the 2002 agreement states, except for the children. The court date for this trial is coming up in September of 2020.
Even with an NFL-appointed arbitrator, the Broncos ownership issues have yet to be resolved. The league has come forward and stated that the owners would not approve Brittany Bowlen or any of the other Bowlen children as the new controlling owner unless the family as a whole was in agreement.
Back in January ahead of the Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell emphasized the importance of shareholders involved, coming together to help fulfill Pat’s wishes.
“So, for us, we want to make sure that his wishes are followed. I don’t think he’d be happy about the public disputes that are going on. Unity is something that I think as an organization in the NFL, you have one person who makes a decision on the behalf of the ownership group and that’s a vital and principle point in our ownership policy. That is what Pat understood. He wanted that, and we need to have that in the case of all franchises, so that at some point in time we’ll have to develop in the context of the Broncos.”
Determining the Broncos value
With ownership of the team still up in the air, the possibility of an all-out sale of the team is still alive. As previously stated, if the trust and the shareholders cannot come to an agreement on who the next owner will be, the team could face the possibility of being sold. This brings on the questions: how much are the Denver Broncos worth and who would be a potential buyer?
Currently the Broncos organization, according to Forbes, is valued at $3 billion with an operating income of $94 million. This valuation marks the Broncos as the 11th most valuable franchise in the NFL. Another team amidst a sudden change in ownership is Denver’s Super Bowl 48 opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, who currently sit at 15th and have a valuation of $2.775 billion.
This valuation, adding in the team’s winning history and growing market, could lead to the team being sold at one of the highest values we’ve seen in recent years. The Carolina Panthers were recently purchased in 2018 by David Tepper for a cool $2.275 billion. If the Broncos were to be sold at or above their Forbes valuation, it would be the largest sale of the last ten teams and would certainly reset the team value market.
Since we know the answer to how much the team is worth, that brings us to the second of our questions: who could possibly buy the Denver Broncos?
Could the Broncos be bought by an online giant?
One of the names that have come up in the talks of a potential sale of the Broncos is Amazon’s, Jeff Bezos. The Amazon CEO has expressed interest in purchasing an NFL team and with a net worth of over $165 billion, there’s no doubt that Bezos could afford to purchase the Denver franchise if the team was put up for sale.
There have been concerns, however, that Bezos might not want to be the “classic” NFL owner and it may just be for show. Owner involvement is especially important for Broncos fans, as Bowlen was one of the more involved team owners in league history. He helped created a particular atmosphere in Denver that helped lead them to success.
Those concerns aside, Bezos would certainly be an intriguing buyer for the Broncos. With Amazon already working closely with the NFL in numerous aspects including advanced statistics and the airing of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime, a potential purchase by Bezos could make the Broncos one of the more advanced teams in the league. The Broncos feature a young and talented team with a loyal fan base.
With a new owner like Bezos, it could provide the Broncos with a fresh start. However, with the Seahawks up for grabs, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Bezos avoid the ownership dilemma in Denver and buy the Seattle franchise, thus strengthening Amazon’s presence in the Pacific Northwest.
Keeping the future Broncos owner in the Bowlen family
While the dispute between Pat Bowlen’s daughters and the Bowlen Trust will continue in court in September, it is important that we think about what Brittany Bowlen could do as the next owner of the Denver Broncos.
If Brittany assumed control as the owner of the team, the most important aspect of the Bowlen legacy stays true. Keeping the team within the family is the end goal and Brittany, now 30, would become the youngest owner in the league and one of the few female owners in the NFL.
Brittany is well-educated, earning a finance degree from Notre Dame and an MBA from Duke University, and has spent time with the organization in a managerial capacity and with the NFL. She is currently the Vice President of Business Initiatives within the organization, which makes her the most qualified candidate of the Bowlen children.
It would hurt the Broncos fanbase to see the team fall out of the Bowlen family name, but if the shareholders cannot agree on a successor, Dove Valley could soon have a “For Sale” sign sitting in front of the office doors.