ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Bids to become the next owner of the Denver Broncos are due by the close of business Monday, or 3 p.m. Mountain Time.
A source familiar with the Broncos’ auction sale said that unless there’s a final-hour surprise, four groups are expected to place their bids Monday.
The four groups are led by:
- Rob Walton and his son-in-law Greg Penner
- Josh Harris
- Jose E. Feliciano
- Mat Ishbia
No bids have come in yet, according to a source. This is an auction, and the four groups are each expected to wait and submit their best offers closer to the 3 p.m. deadline.
According to multiple sources, all four groups have spoken to former Broncos' star quarterback Peyton Manning to gauge his interest in joining their ownership groups as a minority partner or advisor. No word on Manning's next move if he makes a move.
After the bids are in, the two men responsible for overseeing the Broncos’ sale – Steve Greenberg of Allen & Company and Joe Lecesse of Proskauer Rose LLP – will analyze the offers and discuss them with the three trustees of the Pat Bowlen estate: Joe Ellis, Rich Slivka and Mary Kelly. Ellis is the Broncos’ CEO and president; Slivka is the Broncos’ general counsel; Kelly is a longtime attorney of the Bowlen family.
Bowlen owned the Broncos from 1984 until he was declared incapacitated by Alzheimer’s in December 2013, at which time the team was placed in his trust. Bowlen died in June 2019 after his lengthy fight with Alzheimer’s.
While the bids submitted Monday may not be completely final, they are expected to give the sellers and trustees a good idea of who the leaders are, and who are the also-rans.
A source told 9NEWS there is some chance the Broncos’ new owner will be chosen within a week or two, subject to approval from the NFL owners.
Although the Broncos’ last listed estimated value came in at $3.75 billion by Forbes last fall, it would be a surprise if each of the four bids that come in Monday didn’t exceed $4 billion, with the final purchase price possibly pushing $5 billion.
The structure of the offer will be significant. If one investment group submits a $4.5 billion offer that includes the maximum $1 billion in financing, it may be deemed weaker than a $4.25 billion with zero financing.
A closer look at the four groups:
It was Sam Walton who founded the gargantuan Walmart discount store franchise, a business that oldest son Rob helped take public in 1970. Sam and Helen’s four children are Rob, 77; John, who died in a plane crash in 2005 at 58; Jim, 73; and Alice, 72.
Sam had one sibling, a brother named Bud Walton. With wife Audrey, Bud had two daughters: Ann -- who later married Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Avalanche, Nuggets and Los Angeles Rams -- and Nancy.
After Sam Walton passed away in 1992, Rob Walton became Walmart’s chairman, a position he held until 2015, when he transferred authority to Penner, who has been married to Rob’s daughter Carrie since shortly after they graduated 30-some years ago from Georgetown University.
Penner, 52, was among the Walton posse that visited the Broncos’ stadium and headquarters on May 9. The visit included dinner with Joe Ellis.
This group appears to have more billions than the others. By a lot. But will they make the highest bid come 3 p.m. Monday?
If so, the legacies of brothers Sam and Bud Walton may well be passed down to a sports competition between Rob and Stan.
After making billions through Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm that invests primarily in distressed properties, Harris started veering into sports. Harris, 57, owns the NBA Philadelphia 76ers, the NHL New Jersey Devils and more recently bought a 5% minority share in the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers. One of his minority partners Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
However, two of Harris' partners in previous deals, David Blitzer and Michael Rubin, are not part of this Broncos' bid. Harris' sports company's name is called Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment, but again, Blitzer is not one of Harris' investors for the Broncos.
The Harris group visited Broncos headquarters and their stadium on May 5-6. The visit included dinner with Ellis at the Capital Grille in downtown Denver.
Jose E. Feliciano
Along with partner Behdad Eghbali, Feliciano founded Clearlake Capital, a Santa Monica, California-based private equity business. Feliciano, 49, and Eghbali, 46, were the primary money men behind Todd Boehly’s winning bid of the Chelsea soccer team in London for $4.25 billion pound sterling, or $5.31 billion in American dollars. Boehly is a minority investor in the Feliciano-Eghbali group. Feliciano would be the controlling owner.
While Boehly was in London finishing up the Chelsea purchase last month, Feliciano and Eghbali visited Broncos’ headquarters and their stadium on May 11-12. The dinner included dinner with Ellis.
After his college basketball career at Michigan State, where he was part of three Final Fours and the 2000 national championship team, Ishbia made his billions through Michigan-based United Wholesale Mortgage. Ishbia, 42, and his brother Justin, 44, who founded Chicago-area Shore Capital Partners, which is a – you guessed it – private equity firm, are the top two investors in the Ishbia bid, but the group does have minority representation – as the NFL is strongly urging.
The Ishbia brothers visited with Broncos' executives at the team facilities May 19-20. The visit included dinner with Ellis.
Most peg the Walton and Harris groups as the bidders to beat -- but it may not be the groups necessarily, but the number.
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