ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Nathaniel Hackett has new bosses.
He’s particularly happy about boss No. 4, if you will, Mellody Hobson. Not only is she CEO of Ariel Investments, which is big on no-load mutual funds; and chairman of Starbucks, which is big on coffee, lattes, mochas, Frappuccinos, pastries and sandwiches; but Hobson is also about to celebrate her ninth wedding anniversary with George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars.
Hackett, a man of eclectic and fairly youthful tastes, is such a Star Wars fan, he reportedly has used “Yoda” as an audible code word.
“How about it? Star Wars. Very excited about Starbucks and Star Wars,’’ Hackett, the Broncos’ first-year head coach, said Monday. “And Walmart.’’
He didn’t forget Walmart, which is where bosses 1 through 3 are rooted. Rob Walton will be the Broncos’ controlling owner once the other NFL owners vote their formal approval later this summer. He was Walmart’s chairman from 1992-2015. Rob’s daughter Carrie Walton Penner and son-in-law Greg Penner will be in charge of the day-to-day operations. Greg Penner succeeded his father-in-law as Walmart’s chairman in 2015.
“I have a lot of excitement, as we all know, and a lot of energy,’’ Hackett said. “It’s great to hear that on the other end of the phone also. Their excitement and their energy is definitely going to match me, and that’s awesome.”
Hackett and quarterback Russell Wilson were two Broncos high enough on the organizational ladder to have met the new owners both during the Walton-Penner group tour of the team’s headquarters on May 9 and through phone calls after the sales agreement announcement was made.
“I think with Mr. Walton, getting to know him — they came here a couple months ago, maybe, or whatever it was — I got to spend some time with them. I got to spend time with Mr. Walton himself. I got to spend time with Greg Penner. I got to spend time with Carrie as well. We’ve had some really good bonding moments just about life and success and visions and all the things that they wanted to do and how they wanted to impact the Broncos.
“They’re really, really about community which I’m super about. … But also, it’s about winning. It’s about being successful and giving us all the resources we need to make sure that we’re successful and do whatever we need to do and just be great. … I got a call from Mr. Penner himself. He called and I got to talk to him. We were actually at sushi, me and Ciara, on date night.
“I was like, ‘Oh, this is interesting. This must be good news.’ He called and I got to talk to them for a while, Greg and Carrie. Talked about a lot of stuff, but they got to meet C [Ciara] a little bit. Just a cool experience. I got to talk to Mr. Walton the next morning, too.’’
Wilson also talked with Hobson on Monday morning – a day after he delivered a commencement speech for Dartmouth graduates in Hanover, New Hampshire and before he took the practice field for a mid-90s minicamp workout at UCHealth Training Center. Hobson will be a limited partner in the Broncos' new ownership group.
“I think to be able to talk to her, too — what a tremendous accomplishment and what a gift to be able to do what she’s going to do,’’ Wilson said. “She’s the first Black woman to do this. This is a big deal. This is history. I think it’s gone over people’s heads a little bit. It’s news. It’s a tremendous representation for minorities, but Blacks in particular. I think the growth within the NFL and what they are trying to do—the Waltons, too. To do that and honor that is pretty awesome. I think that relationship is really important, and we want to do everything we can to win. That dialogue is everything. That’s what helps win.”
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