DENVER — Entertainment entrepreneur Byron Allen isn’t putting together what he calls a "Who’s Who" of investors to help him buy the Broncos merely because he’s a capitalist and Denver happens to be the only NFL franchise on the market.
Part of his attraction to bidding on the Broncos is the emotional aspect. He truly likes the team.
"Oh my gosh. I love the Broncos," Allen said Wednesday in a phone conversation with 9NEWS. "Elway, Manning. I mean, I love the Broncos. Who doesn’t love the Broncos? 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."
It was at the Lazard Media and Finance Conference in November 2019 when Allen was approached by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft about becoming an NFL owner the next time a franchise was put up for sale. Goodell confirmed during his Super Bowl press conference Wednesday from Los Angeles – where a few minutes earlier Allen set up to hold his phone conversation with 9NEWS – that he spoke with Allen at least twice about becoming involved in the process of buying the Broncos. Goodell added there are other Black investors he’s talked with about possibly bidding on the Broncos.
"We would love to see a diverse owner of the team," Goodell said. "Whether that's a person of color, or a female, or a Black man, we think that would be a really positive step for us. And something we've encouraged. And one of the reasons we've reached out to find candidates who can do that. The Broncos are selling the team, not the NFL. We would have approval rights. But I think we'll be very clear, and we have already been clear with the Broncos that is something we would seek to have in the ownership."
When Goodell and Kraft first approached Allen in November of 2019, it wasn’t clear at the time the Broncos would be placed on the market, although, face it, there was a good chance as Bowlen had passed away five months earlier following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s.
It wasn’t the Broncos, necessarily, that drew Goodell and Kraft to Allen, but a desire to have a Black owner.
"They were sincere," Allen said. "They said in our nearly 100-year history at that point we’ve never had a Black owner. This is important to us and we want to achieve that goal. And I said, ‘Listen, that’s a very important goal, it’s long overdue and I’m happy to help.' Our strength is diversity and our diversity needs to be in our entire ecosystem. 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. I’m a firm believer we have to work towards that goal of becoming One America. One America where we’re united and not divided. We have to remember we’re a small country, we’re a small village. We’re only 330 million people out of a global population of 7-plus billion people and we have to become one.
"I’m about what can we do to elevate Americans and position Americans to be their best."
Allen then went into his stated belief in the five Es: Making sure every American receives a great education, equal justice, economic inclusion, environmental protection and empathy.
"And with the NFL, I think it starts with ownership," Allen said. "Because look, coaches’ jobs will come and go, based on wins and losses. But it starts with ownership. It’s those 32 owners who are really helping to effectuate the rules. And in 2022 this is an opportunity for us to do something that would be great for the league, great for the country, and hopefully gets us onto that pathway of unity."
Soon after Bloomberg broke the news Tuesday afternoon of Allen’s intention to bid on becoming the Broncos’ next owner, questions were raised as to whether he had the money necessary to pull off the transaction. The Broncos are expected to sell for $4 billion, give or take a half billion. Allen, whose Allen Media Group owns the Weather Channel and 21 local television stations across the country from Honolulu to Huntsville, has a net value of $450 million according to Forbes.
"Yeah my kids kid me about that all the time," Allen said of his Forbes’ wealth estimate. “They’re on me to give them a bigger allowance. So around the house I play that down. But here’s what I would say: Capital is not an issue. 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."
He has also had national television exposure for the past 42 years – going back to when he was 18 and doing a standup comedy routine on the 'Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,' on through his ‘Real People’ show from 1979 to 1984. He is 60 years old now.
"You could have invested in anything in the stock market over the last 42 years and you’d have done just fine," Allen said. "The money is not an issue. And by the way, I’m not doing the whole thing by myself. We are forming an investor group that we’ve already started. And already it’s a Who’s Who of Wall Street and sports and Hollywood and business and real estate entrepreneurs. And it’s a Who’s Who. I can assure you in America, the one thing America doesn’t have a shortage of is money and people who love the Broncos."
Allen declined to identify his Who’s Who list of potential investors.
"If it were me I would tell you right now, but they all have their own brands where they want to make sure they’re part of the winning bid," Allen said with a laugh.
That’s just it. Most of the billionaires capable of purchasing the Broncos are media recluses. Used to succeeding in business, they aren’t comfortable with the notion of trying but failing to land the team. Give Allen credit for announcing his place in the high-stakes game, win or lose.
"Hey, that’s the American Way," he said. "You have to think big and dream big and go big. This is a big opportunity and I appreciate commissioner Goodell and Bob Kraft coming to me and saying, 'Hey, would you take a look at this?'
"I said sure. And we got back to our homes and offices and got on Zoom calls and virtual meetings and more conference calls with their folks and Broncos folks and that was it. The conversation has been going on a little over two years now.”
Allen, it seems, believes a greater good would come out of becoming the NFL's first Black owner and the Broncos' controlling owner, period.
"This isn’t about making money,'' he said. "You don’t buy an NFL team to get rich. You buy an NFL team to help American be better. This is a moment where in success this would be great for the league, great for the country and that is all helping us be better."
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