DENVER — The Broncos’ new head coach is Nathaniel Hackett. Their new quarterback is Russell Wilson.
The team’s new owner will be known in 2 1/2 to five months.
What was your NFL team up to this offseason? Oh, and 15 months ago the Broncos replaced general manager John Elway with George Paton.
The Broncos are not only on the auction block, where the primary intent is to sell the team to nothing less than the highest bidder, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and league owners want to make sure there is minority representation. A reconciliation that apparently presents no problem.
"My understanding at this point is there are minority participants in several of the groups that are bidding," Art Rooney II, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, said during one of the NFL meetings press conferences last week.
With the Broncos expected to fetch at least $4 billion there is a good chance the Broncos’ new controlling owner will be the lead partner of an investment group, rather than a sole proprietor. 9NEWS has compiled the running list of ownership candidates who have been reported either by us or other media outlets.
"It’s more than five and less than 20," said Broncos CEO and Patrick D. Bowlen estate trustee Joe Ellis when asked by 9NEWS last week how many ownership bids have been submitted. "And there’s a lot of people that would like to be involved in some part whether they’re not the controlling owner. It’s been a pretty robust process so far… And I’ll stick to the timeline I think I said back in January which is we should have a new owner in place by the start of the regular season (the week of September 11). I cannot guarantee that."
There are two significant rules for the purchaser. One, the new owner or ownership group would be limited to $1 billion in financing of the final purchase price at the time of transaction. That means if the Broncos sell for $4 billion, the new owners must write a check for $3 billion, or 75 percent of purchase price. If the final bid reaches $5 billion, the new owners must come up with $4 billion cash, or 80 percent of purchase.
And two, within that new ownership group the person identified as the controlling owner must account for at least 30 percent of the purchase price. That means if the Broncos sell for $4 billion, the controlling owner must have at least $1.2 billion behind his or her name.
We’re not talking about former Bronco quarterback legends John Elway or Peyton Manning. They have some level of interest in an attachment to the winning ownership group, although they would be, at most, minority investors.
"They’ve inquired is what I would tell you," Ellis said. "And they can speak for themselves about what they are inquiring about and what their interest is. Certainly, I think either one would be well-accepted by a group if a group or a potential owner would want to include them in the group. We’ll see where that shakes out."
A look at 9 potential ownership candidates who have been circulated in the media to this point:
Robson Walton/Greg Penner
This would be interesting as it would set up a Walton Family competition both locally in Denver and in the NFL. Stan Kroenke was already a highly successful real estate developer when he married Ann Walton in 1974. Ann is the daughter of the late Bud Walton, brother of Sam Walton who was founder of the Walmart chains.
Kroenke owned the NBA Nuggets and NHL Avalanche until his purchase of the NFL Rams forced him to cede his Nuggets/Avs assets to his son Josh Kroenke.
Robson Walton is 77, the oldest of Sam and Helen Walton’s four children. He reportedly is worth $66 billion.
Robson was Walmart’s chairman from 1992 to 2015. Robson has had property addresses listed in Scottsdale, Ariz., Bentonville, Ark., Aspen, Nederland and Boulder. He’s a licensed pilot.
His daughter, Carrie Walton, married Greg Penner, who has been Walmart’s chairman since 2015. Penner, 52, has property addresses listed from coast to coast with Snowmass Village and Aspen in between.
The New York Post was the first to report of a potential Walton bid. As one source with some knowledge of the Broncos’ ownership sale process told 9NEWS: "I heard the Waltons are in and if the Waltons are in, everybody else is out."
That’s more hyperbole than truth, but we get the point: Any member of the Walton clan could do the Broncos’ deal all by him or herself.
Sources have been telling 9NEWS that the private equity/sports franchise mogul is in on the bidding process. A Harris spokesman would not confirm, telling 9NEWS that Harris doesn’t respond to rumors.
Like the Kroenkes, Harris holds major stakes in the NHL (New Jersey Devils), NBA (Philadelphia 76ers) and English Premier League (Crystal Palace) franchises. Harris, 57, built his wealth through private equity investments, particularly Apollo Global Management. His net worth has reportedly been listed at around $7 billion.
Harris’ minority investors in the Devils and 76ers include Michael Rubin, whose Fanatics sports merchandise company has reportedly been valued at $8 billion, former Vail Resorts CEO Adam Aron and entertainers Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and Jay-Z.
Harris and his partner David Blitzer two years ago put up $140 million to purchase 5 percent ownership in the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers so he has relationships built within the NFL owners circles. That 5 percent stake had been held by David Tepper before he bought the Carolina Panthers prior to the 2018 season for $2.25 billion.
Will 5 percent of Steelers ownership become known as the gateway to future full NFL team ownership?
Byron Allen Group
Allen said he was approached by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft at a convention in November 2019 about becoming involved in NFL ownership.
"I did talk to him and told him I’d like to help any way I can," Kraft said this week at the NFL owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. "I’m not sure how much I can help in this type of sale process."
Allen Media Group owns 36 local TV stations and 12 cable networks, including The Weather Channel. He is still the only potential controlling owner buyer to announce his bid on the Broncos. Allen recently said he has signed a non-disclosure agreement, which all bidders have done.
Before that Allen told 9NEWS he was putting together a “Who’s Who” group of sports and entertainment investors to join him in his bid.
"Who doesn’t love the Broncos?" Allen said February 9 in a phone conversation with 9NEWS. "And I have a great deal of respect for Pat Bowlen. Pat Bowlen was one of the great owners. One of the phenomenal owners. I have an enormous respect for him and his family and what they’ve done for Denver, the state of Colorado, for the NFL, for the country. And I wouldn’t get involved unless I believed I could grow on what they’ve built."
With Goodell and NFL owners strongly suggesting they want minority representation in the Broncos’ next ownership group, the possibility of a partnership-type bid would seemingly help Allen, who reportedly is worth $450 million – far below the estimated Broncos’ purchase price of $4 billion. While the NFL allows $1 billion of the purchase to be financed at transaction, that still leaves the new ownership group to come up with $3 billion in cash.
Still, if, say, Walton or Harris would hook up with Allen as a minority partner, the NFL would be pleased.
"Our strength is diversity and our diversity needs to be in our entire ecosystem," Allen said in his previous conversation with 9NEWS. "Management and ownership. When the owner category is zero, that’s not a good number and that’s not a defensible number.
"And having somebody in the room to give some perspective and move it beyond conversation and into something that’s actionable and more balanced. I’m a big believer in balance, bringing balance to the ecosystem."
And if Allen’s investor group wins the Broncos’ bid outright, he could become the controlling owner by having just 30 percent of the total stake – or an estimated $1.2 billion. He may have to sell off a few TV stations but it can be done.
"Capital is not an issue," Allen said two months ago. "There’s plenty of capital. People said the same thing when I went and bought the Weather Channel. And now I’ve owned the Weather Channel nearly four years.
"People don’t realize over the last couple of years I have invested about a billion dollars buying ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX affiliates around the country. I’m the only black owner of Big 4 network affiliates. And I’m the only owner of the Big 4 Networks that’s not publicly traded or multi-generationally owned."
Alec Gores, Dean Metropoulos, Mat Ishbia Group
Tom Gores, 57, is the owner of the NBA Detroit Pistons. His older brother Alec Gores reportedly wants to buy the Broncos along with two other investors, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Alec Gores, 69, is reportedly aligning with Florida investor Dean Metropoulos and mortgage lending executive Mat Ishbia -- a reserve freshman guard on the 1999-2000 Michigan State national championship basketball team -- in a bid for the Broncos. The trio’s combined wealth is reportedly worth between $10 billion and $16 billion.
Behdad Eghbali, Jose E. Feliciano and Kwanza Jones
Apparently, private equity investment is the best way to build multi-billion-dollar wealth in this world. Bloomberg reports this group is preparing a bid on the Broncos.
Eghbali, 45, and Feliciano, 43 co-own a Santa Monica-based private equity firm and are worth a combined $6.8 billion, according to Forbes
Feliciano is married to Jones, a singer and investor. The trio previously tried to buy a minority share of the NFL Washington Commanders.
Jones is Black, Feliciano was born in Puerto Rico and Eghbali was born in Iran so this group would satisfy the NFL owners’ recently passed resolution of adding diversity to its ownership group. Eghbali and his wife Julia Harris recently bought a $21 million estate in Los Angeles’ posh Brentwood community where Christian Bale and LeBron James are among his neighbors.
Boehly, 46, owns DraftKings and is the co-founder and chairman of Eldridge Industries with an estimated net worth of about $5 billion. He has a 20 percent stake in the MLB Los Angeles Dodgers and, along with partner Mark Walters, 27 percent of the NBA Los Angeles Lakers. Boehly also holds ownership stakes in the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks, Dick Clark Productions, Billboard, Rolling Stone and Hollywood Reporter. According to the New York Post, Boehly has interest in adding the Broncos to his sports portfolio.
The prevailing speculation is that if Smith wants to buy the Broncos, the team is his. He would be considered a near-ideal Broncos’ ownership candidate in that he grew up in Denver, graduated from Denver East High School and is now considered the richest Black person in the United States with an estimated worth of $8.9 billion.
The bulk of his wealth was attained through – you guessed it – private equity investments with his Vista group located in Austin, Texas. While delivering the commencement address at Morehouse College in May 2019, Smith announced he would pay off the student-loan debt of all 396 graduates.
Two different media outlets reported Smith was interested in preparing a bid to buy the Broncos and both times a source close to Smith denied the reports to 9NEWS.
"Robert's priorities right now are on the fight for voting rights and economic justice rather than being...an owner of a team," said the source. "He continues to be most focused on how he can best help underserved communities gain access to capital, healthcare, education, and the ballot box. Pursuing ownership of the Broncos is not on his radar right now."
Smith is also trying to raise more than $20 billion from investors for his Vista Equity group.
Still, Smith himself has not personally denied reports of his interest in buying his hometown Broncos.
With an estimated net worth of $188 billion, the Amazon giant is considered the world’s second-richest person to Elon Musk’s estimated $273 billion. The NFL rumor mill has Bezos interested in one day buying the Washington Commanders if/when the NFL figures out how to remove the team’s beleaguered current owner, Daniel Snyder.
While it is not believed Bezos is interested in buying the Broncos, he and his now ex-wife did raise their children in the Seattle-area, where they no doubt became familiar with former Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson.
Now that Wilson is a Bronco, perhaps Bezos will spark a newfound interest in the Denver team.
The former Kanye West and husband to Kim Kardashian, Ye is still a hot-selling Rapper worth $1.8 billion, according to Forbes. Like Byron Allen, Ye would seemingly need to put together a group of investors if he were to have the financial means to buy the Broncos. But one of his business partners, embattled receiver Antonio Brown, has taken to Twitter to announce Ye’s interest in buying the team.
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