According to the Denver Bronco’s organization, an agreement has been reached to sell the team to the Walton-Penner family ownership group led by former Walmart chairman Robert Walton for $4.65 billon.
This will make the sale the largest of any sports team in US history.
The announcement by the team and Walton also ends a long tussle between the children of Pat Bowlen, who owned the team for nearly four decades before he died in 2019 at the age of 75.
The Walton and Penner families, who amassed their fortunes largely through their stakes in Walmart, were considered the best financed bidders. The executors of the Bowlen Family Trust were obligated to accept the highest offer for the team to maximize the value of the family estate.
According to Forbes, Walton is believed to have a net worth of about $70 billion, which would make him the wealthiest owner in the NFL if his families bid is formally approved.
To win the Broncos’ bid, the Walton-Penner group beat three other bidding groups that were led by Josh Harris, Jose E. Feliciano and Mat Ishbia. According to a source familar with the process, the four bids came in between $4.35 billion and $4.55 billion with the Walton-Penner group at or near the high end.
However, a big factor in the Pat Bowlen estate trustees and their sales representatives picking the winner is the Walton group didn’t need any partners to get to the $4.5 billion target area although there will be limited partners to better diversify their group. The other three bidders needed multiple investors to help them stretch to the $4.5 billion area.
When the Waltons agreed to bump their bid to $4.65 billion, the deal was made roughly 30 hours after the final bids were presented at 3 p.m. last Monday.
The sales agreement between Walton-Penner and the Broncos will now go to the NFL finance committee for review and expected approval. A special league meeting of owners is expected to be called in the next six weeks to two months. At that league meeting, 24 of 32 owners must give their consent for the Walton-Penner group to take control of the owners. One vote should come from Stan Kroenke, owner of the Los Angeles Rams, whose wife Ann is Rob Walton’s cousin.
Kroenke currently owns the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, and with his son Josh Kroenke also owns the NHL Colorado Avalanche, the NBA Denver Nuggets and the Ball Arena where the Avs and Nuggets play their home games.
This sale is thirty-eight years after an unknown Canadian attorney named Pat Bowlen bought a majority interest of the Broncos from Edgar Kaiser for more than $70 million. Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen bought the Broncos in 1984 and the club went on to appear in seven Super Bowls, winning three of them. Denver had 21 winning seasons and claimed 13 AFC West titles during this span.
The Broncos joined the AFL (American Football League) in 1960 and were dismal on the field for their first decade and a half, though they were popular with fans in the Rocky Mountain states.
“I have enjoyed getting to know Rob Walton, Carrie Walton Penner and Greg Penner throughout this process,” Broncos CEO and president Joe Ellis said in a statement. “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.”
Rob Walton and Greg Penner said in a joint statement: “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. 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.”
So who gets the $4.65 billion before taxes and fees? John Bowlen, brother of the late owner Pat Bowlen, will receive 22 percent, or $1.023 billion. Pat’s seven children from two marriages will split the other 78 percent, or 11.14 percent each. That leaves $518,010,000 for each child.