The Denver Broncos announced Tuesday night that they have reached an agreement to purchase the team from the Walton-Penner family.
Rob Walton, the eldest son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, is set to become the next owner of the Denver Broncos after the organization announced Tuesday night that he, his daughter Carrie Walton-Penner, and his son-in-law Greg Penner had entered into a purchase agreement with the franchise.
The Pat Bowlen Trust has agreed to sell the Broncos to the Walton-Penner family, pending clearance from the NFL’s finance committee and league ownership. The agreement is also subject to “customary closing procedures,” according to a joint statement from the Broncos and Walton-Penner.
The financial parameters of the deal were not immediately announced, but according to 9News in Denver, Walton would pay $4.65 billion for the franchise, which is more than double the highest recent sale price for an NFL team. The $4.65 billion price tag would also be a record for a sports club in the United States.
“We are thrilled to be moving forward with the purchase of the Denver Broncos,” Walton said in a statement released by the team. ” … 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 past few months.”
Walton, 77, was Walmart’s chairman from 1992 to 2015 and has a net worth of $65 billion, according to Forbes, putting him among the world’s top 20 richest people and making him the richest NFL owner by far.
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Walton’s bid must first be accepted by the NFL and the ownership group’s finance committee, and then by a three-fourths majority of the other 31 owners before the ownership transfer becomes complete. Walton is not only wealthy enough to provide a clean financial package to the sale, but he is also related by marriage to Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams. Kroenke is married to Ann Walton-Kroenke, Walton’s cousin, and owns two sports teams in Denver: the NBA’s Nuggets and the NHL’s Avalanche.
While Walton will be the Broncos’ controlling owner once the sale is completed, the specific composition of his investment group remains unknown, though he did make one major announcement in addition to Penner, who succeeded him as Walmart’s chairman in 2015 and continues to serve in that capacity.
Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments and chair of the Starbucks board of directors, will join the ownership group, according to Walton’s announcement.
Hobson is a crucial player in part because the NFL has made it clear that it wants more diversity in its ownership ranks. She was the first black woman to chair an S&P 500 corporation when she took the job at Starbucks. However, it remains to be seen whether the Walton-Penner group has more minority participation and what role Hobson and others will play operationally.
The Broncos’ team president and CEO, Ellis, also issued a statement.
“Throughout this process, I’ve enjoyed getting to know Rob Walton, Carrie Walton Penner, and Greg Penner,” Ellis said. “After learning more about their background and vision for the Denver Broncos, I am confident that their guidance and support will enable this team to achieve great things both on and off the field.
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“Over the last few months and years, I have greatly appreciated the cooperation of our football leadership, executive team, and staffs at both UCHealth Training Center and Empower Field at Mile High. We’d also like to thank Allen & Company and Proskauer Rose for their efforts in guiding us through this process in a timely and efficient manner.
“While the NFL’s finance committee and league ownership must approve this purchase and sale agreement, today is a significant step toward an exciting new chapter in Broncos history.”
Pat Bowlen bought the Broncos in 1984 and led them to three Super Bowl victories during his tenure. In July 2014, Bowlen handed over control of the team to Ellis after admitting to having Alzheimer’s disease. Bowlen died in 2019, and the Pat Bowlen Trust has been in charge of the property since then. In February, the trust announced that it had begun the process of selling the club.