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Broncos, Kaiser estate reach settlement, sale of team now 'free and clear'

After 38 years, the right of first refusal agreement between Pat Bowlen and Edgar Kaiser Jr. is finally dissolved.

DENVER — The trustees of the Pat Bowlen estate and surviving members of the Edgar Kaiser Jr. estate have reached a settlement, bringing a conclusion to their 38-year right of first refusal case.

Lawyers representing both the Bowlen and Kaiser estates filed a “voluntary dismissal agreement” Thursday in the Colorado Court of Appeals to the right of first refusal (ROFR) ruling issued this year by Denver District Judge Shelly I. Gilman.

The dismissal agreement added that each party was responsible for its own costs and fees.

The settlement, and motion to dismiss the Kaiser’s ROFR appeal, erases the final impediment to the Broncos’ sale by auction.

> Video above: Broncos ownership talks at NFL annual meetings.

The Denver Broncos were officially put up for sale Feb. 1, with Steve Greenberg of Allen & Co. and Joe Lecesse of Prokauser Rose LLP handling the transition of the team’s sale.

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“The sale of the Broncos can now proceed free and clear without interruption,’’ said Dan Reilly, attorney for the three trustees of the Patrick D. Bowlen Trust.

Per Joe Ellis, the Broncos’ CEO, president and Bowlen trustee, there are “more than five and less 20” candidates who are interested in buying the Broncos. Among the reported bidders are Rob Walton, Josh Harris, Byron Allen, Alec Gores, Todd Boehly and Behdad Edhbali.

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Several bidders had understandably inquired about the ROFR case during the vetting process.

The ROFR was an agreement made between both buyer and seller in March 1984, when Kaiser sold the Broncos to Bowlen. The matter has been disputed through court litigation multiple times, most notably in 1999, when Kaiser contested Bowlen’s attempt to sell a 10% minority interest in the team to retired quarterback John Elway.

The Bowlen trustees and Kaiser survivors went to court again in September to argue whether the ROFR was still valid, with the Broncos side contending it wasn’t in part because both Bowlen and Kaiser had passed away.

Gilman decisively ruled in the Broncos’ favor on Jan. 11 when she stated:

The right of first refusal in the March 16, 1984, sales agreement between Kaiser and Bowlen "has terminated in its entirety" and "is no longer valid or enforceable in any respect."

None of Kaiser’s heirs “have any rights under the right of first refusal” – meaning they are not entitled to any notice of the intended sale of the franchise.

The Broncos have no obligations “to provide notice of any intended sale.”

The Kaiser estate filed an appeal three weeks later to Judge Gilman’s ruling, but now the settlement reached between parties erases the ROFR issue and allows the Broncos and candidates bidding to buy the team to continue on with fear that the Kaisers would have the right to match the final purchase offer.

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