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Legal source: Auction likely if Broncos put up for sale

A legal source familiar with the Broncos' ownership transition says because the franchise is in a trust, the duty to beneficiaries is to get the highest price.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A homeowner selling his property has a say in picking the buyer.

The best offer from potential buyers is almost always a primary factor, but there may be others, especially in today's sell-above-the-list-price market.

It's a little different for the Broncos should the team be put up for sale -- and signs point that way. A legal source familiar with the Broncos' ownership transition told 9NEWS that should the team be sold, it would likely be through an auction process.

Because the Broncos' franchise and its entities are placed in a trust -- in this case the Patrick D. Bowlen Trust -- the trustees have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries to get the highest possible price, pending NFL approval.

Bowlen died in June 2019 from complications of Alzheimer's. His three trustees are Joe Ellis, who also serves as the Broncos' chief executive officer and president; Rich Slivka, the team's longtime general counsel; and Bowlen's personal attorney Mark Kelly.

Ellis has repeatedly said it's important to find the right owner to carry on the Broncos tradition and Bowlen's winning ways, but the legal source suggests an auction could mean the trustees would have limited authority in picking the new owner.

In the Broncos' case, the top bid would likely win -- again, so long as the other 31 NFL owners approve of the new buyers.

The trust's beneficiaries are seven of Bowlen's children -- Amie Klemmer and Beth Wallace from his first marriage to Sally Parker, and Patrick, John, Brittany, Annabel and Christianna from his second marriage to Annabel -- and his brother John. The seven children combine for 78% of the team's worth -- or 11.14% each -- while brother John Bowlen has 22%.

Pat Bowlen, who bought the Broncos from Edgar Kaiser Jr. in 1984, had stated a desire to pass on the Broncos franchise to one of his children who had earned the right to sit in his big chair after he had died. The trustees were clearly grooming Brittany to be the child who would one day succeed her father as controlling owner.

RELATED: Denver judge rules Broncos' former owner's heirs have no say

Credit: AP
Brittany Bowlen looks on before an NFL football game between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

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But it appears that because the seven children have been unable to reach unanimous agreement on which child should run the team -- Beth Bowlen announced May 31, 2018 she wanted to run the Broncos and later joined her sister Amie in filing suit against the trustees, a claim an Arapahoe County judge later dismissed -- signs point toward the Broncos being put up for sale.

Ellis has stated he would announce the trustees' intentions regarding the team's ownership transfer after general manager George Paton hires his next head coach, which is expected in the next eight days to two weeks.

At present, the Broncos are not up for sale, although bankers have started the process of vetting potential investors. 

No ownership group has been identified as entering the likely auction process, although sources tell 9NEWS the two best quarterbacks in Broncos history -- John Elway and Peyton Manning -- each have interest in joining the winning ownership group.

Broncos podcast: Klis' Mike Drop

Denver Broncos headlines, game previews and interviews with our 9NEWS insider Mike Klis.


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