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Bowlen and Kaiser still working out ownership issues

DENVER (AP) -- A former owner of the Denver Broncos who won a 1999 lawsuit seeking the right to buy a 10 percent stake in the team is fighting a proposal that would allow owner Pat Bowlen to buy the share back within two years.

During a court hearing Monday, attorneys for former owner Edgar Kaiser said the buy-back proposal would unfairly penalize him because he wouldn't be guaranteed fair market value for the stake when Bowlen buys it back. U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch said he planned to rule before the end of the year. Both sides are expected to appeal, so Matsch said he would put his ruling on hold until the case is resolved. Any change in ownership of the team would have to be approved by the National Football League. Kaiser sold a majority stake in the team to Bowlen in 1984 and sold the rest of his stake to Bowlen's family the following year. Kaiser alleged in a 1999 lawsuit that Bowlen violated a right-of-first-refusal provision in the sale agreement when Bowlen offered to sell former quarterback John Elway a stake in the team. A federal jury ruled that Bowlen violated Kaiser's right of first refusal, and Matsch is trying to structure the deal that would allow Kaiser to buy a stake in the Broncos. Both sides agree that Kaiser should be allowed to buy a 10 percent stake for $15 million, the same deal that Elway was offered in 1998. Elway testified during the trial earlier this year that he chose not to buy a stake in the team because he wanted a more active management role than he was offered. Bowlen's attorneys are arguing that except for Elway's proposed employment with the Broncos, Kaiser's deal should be structured the same. That would mean ensuring Bowlen the right to buy the stake back for $20 million plus 8 percent annual interest in two years. "Edgar Kaiser gets nothing more than what the opportunity was that was presented to Mr. Elway," Bowlen's attorney Daniel Reilly said. Kaiser's attorney Stephen Long said the circumstances are different because Bowlen likely would not have exercised his buy-back right with Elway. He said Bowlen's attorneys have made it clear that he would exercise that right with Kaiser and "do everything he can to minimize Mr. Kaiser's benefits." "The (buy-back) provision between two friends in a business relationship, which is grounded by John Elway's desire to be an active participant in the club, does not exist today," Long said. "It would be unfair and unjust to let Mr. Bowlen use it in a way it never would have been used with John Elway." Reilly argued that Bowlen's intentions are not part of the consideration; only the fact that the deal being offered to Kaiser is the same as that offered to Elway. "It bound them and it should bind Edgar Kaiser," Reilly said.

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