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Broncos Enter Contract with Walton-Penner Family for Reported Record $4.65B Sale

Adam WellsJune 8, 2022

Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a long legal battle over the transfer of ownership, the Denver Broncos have been sold to the Walton-Penner family, the franchise announced Tuesday.

Denver Broncos @Broncos

The Denver Broncos and the Walton-Penner family have entered into a purchase and sale agreement to acquire the team.<br><br>Statements: <a href="https://t.co/tMcfuAifeS">pic.twitter.com/tMcfuAifeS</a>

Mike Klis of 9News reported that the Walton-Penner family won with a bid of $4.65 billion, which broke the record for a U.S. sports franchise.

Mike Ozanian of Forbes previously reported that the estimated winning bid was around $4.5 billion.

A sale has been expected for some time, especially in the aftermath of a Jan. 11 ruling by Denver County District Court Judge Shelley I. Gilman that determined a right of first refusal agreement between previous owners Pat Bowlen and Edgar Kaiser was "no longer valid or enforceable in any respect."

The Pat Bowlen Trust announced Feb. 1 that the Broncos were up for sale:

Denver Broncos @Broncos

The Pat Bowlen Trust announced today the beginning of a sale process for the Denver Broncos.<br><br>Joe Ellis: “Whoever emerges as the new owner will certainly understand what the team means to our great fans and this community.” <a href="https://t.co/ubfPc4TjID">pic.twitter.com/ubfPc4TjID</a>

Per Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal, Kaiser maintained a right of first refusal as part of his original sale of the Broncos to Bowlen in 1984.

The clause came up in 2004 when Kaiser claimed Bowlen violated the agreement by offering a 10 percent stake in the franchise to John Elway. A jury ruled in Kaiser's favor, but an appeals court overruled the jury.

Despite the ruling, Elway elected not to invest as a minority owner at that time.

Bowlen, who had Alzheimer's disease, relinquished control of the franchise to Joe Ellis in 2014. Bowlen died at age 75 in 2019.

Ellis began his NFL career as Broncos director of marketing from 1983 to 1985. He spent eight seasons in the league offices as vice president of club administration and stadium management before returning to the Broncos in 1998.

Since 2014, Ellis has been Denver's president and CEO.

Under Bowlen's ownership, the Broncos made 18 playoff appearances and won 13 division titles, seven AFC championships and three Super Bowls.

In August, Forbes' Mike Ozanian and Christina Settimi estimated the Broncos' franchise value at $3.75 billion. It is the 10th-highest valuation among all 32 NFL teams.

Despite high-profile competition in the bidding for the Broncos, it's hard to argue against the credentials that Rob Walton and the Walton-Penner family bring to the table for the franchise and the NFL.

The son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, Rob served as chairman of the retail giant for 23 years after his father's death in 1992.

Walton's family is familiar with sports team ownership. Luke Patterson of Sports Illustrated noted that Walton's cousin Ann is married to Stan Kroenke, who owns the Los Angeles Rams and a number of other sports franchises.

Per Forbes, Walton is the 17th-wealthiest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $68.6 billion.

While the Broncos have missed the playoffs in the past six seasons since winning Super Bowl 50, they are in prime position to be a title contender in 2022. Their roster boasts a lot of talent at skill positions, including Patrick Surtain II, Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton.

General manager George Paton solved the quarterback question this offseason by acquiring Russell Wilson in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks.

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