ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Understand, for all the seismic waves that shook Broncos Country on Monday when Joe Ellis stated Denver’s NFL franchise could be sold if all seven of Pat Bowlen's children don’t support daughter Brittany, the team is not for sale.
Brittany is still the way to bet.
9NEWS sat down with Ellis, the Broncos’ chief executive officer and president, following his press conference Monday to seek further clarity on the team’s future ownership plans.
Given the lawsuits filed against them by Pat Bowlen’s two oldest daughters selling the team might be the easiest path for Ellis and his fellow trustees Rich Slivka and Mary Kelly. However, the trustees to date are following the instructions left by the Broncos’ late owner.
As any reporter who interviewed the Broncos' late owner can attest, Pat Bowlen did not want the team sold to anyone outside his family.
“I don’t think that’s what we would want to do,’’ Ellis told 9NEWS after his press conference Monday. “If we have to do it we’ll do it. But Pat wanted us to do everything we could to see if a child could succeed him. So we’re going to do that and I’m going to follow through on that plan as he asked me to a long, long time ago.
“I think it would be unfortunate (to sell) but … this affects a lot of people. And it’s not just beneficiaries. It affects the community, it affects the fans, it affects the employees. Pat Bowlen’s partners -- the other 31 teams all have a vested interest in us being run well and being in the right hands when it comes to ownership.
“So there’s a lot of constituents in play here. Pat was very clear in conversations with me that all of those things were of import. And needed to be considered as this moves forward.”
Let’s go back to one, possibly overlooked, point Ellis made about wanting all seven Bowlen children – meaning, not so subtly, older daughters Amie and Beth – to support Brittany as the controlling owner on the day of her unscheduled crowning.
Ellis said full family support “may not be a requirement but it’s going to be necessary.” According to a Trust source, unanimous approval for the seven Bowlen children is not required. The NFL – which has dealt with inherited team owner situations several times prior in its 100-season history -- does not require such unanimous family support for the Chosen One.
It’s the trustees who are saying ‘all-for-Brittany, Brittany-for-all’ is necessary. Why?
“If we’re going to put a child forward to be the controlling owner – mind you, she’s the controlling owner with the same interest as the other beneficiaries at that time -- we’re going to need consent from the family members,’’ Ellis said. “And I think the league – even though it isn’t a requirement – it’s going to be extremely helpful to them in working with Brittany if she were to succeed in that role.”
A contentious family disruption, in other words, would make it difficult for Brittany to govern a Broncos franchise in which all seven children would equally share financially. Brittany may one day be boss but she still would get no more than 1/7th of the team’s overall value (not including the presumed nice salary the boss would be paid).
Brittany is 29 and only a month into her current role with the Broncos as vice president of strategic initiatives so sitting behind her father's old desk figures to be a ways away.
As does peaceful family harmony. Amie Bowlen-Klemmer and Beth Bowlen Wallace are suing the trustees in hopes of removing them from control of their father’s trust. The trial is set for Sept. 1 in an Arapahoe County court.
Simmering beneath the lawsuit is Beth wants to become the team's controlling owner. She stated as much through a press release on May 31, 2018. The trustees, meanwhile, have made it clear – never more so than during Ellis’ press conference Monday -- that Brittany is their choice.
“She’s someone we’ve singled out to be the likely successor without anointing her – words I’ve used in the past,’’ Ellis said after his presser. “She’s got to come in and earn it still but she’s the one we’re looking at collectively and as I mentioned, if she is able to succeed -- I don’t know the exact timing on that -- but if and when she is the family is going to have to sign off on it.’’
So what happens if Beth and Amie never do? That no amount of pay off from their share of the $3 billion franchise (as the Broncos were recently valued by Forbes) and no court ruling can sway them into supporting Brittany?
Could it mean, ‘Sorry, Brittany, but tough luck? Your degree from Notre Dame and MBA from Duke, and two years of working in the NFL offices in New York, and one year with McKinsey & Company, and two different employment stints with the Broncos were nice but because your older half-sisters won’t approve, the team is going up for sale and you don’t get to run the Broncos?
“That is correct,’’ Ellis said. “I think that would be unfortunate. Because I think the family grew up with this team. But only one gets to be the controlling owner. That’s the league rule. And it’s in the documents that the trustees choose that person. That’s being contested so we’ll see where that ends up.
“I mean, I’m not really worried about Brittany whether she’s the successor to her father or not. She’s got a lot going on and a lot going for her. She’s going to have a fabulous life and career regardless of the outcome.”
But if Brittany wants to fulfill her childhood dream and run the Broncos, she’s going to have to step up. As the preferred child, it will be incumbent upon her to bring the family together.
That may not be an easy task. But neither will be running the Broncos.
Although several potential suitors have inquired about the possibility about buying Denver's NFL franchise – and such calls may become more frequent following Ellis’ startling revelation on Monday -- the trustees to date have turned them all away.
For one, nothing can happen during the pending lawsuit. There must be 100 percent assurance the trustees remain in control of the Pat Bowlen Trust, and therefore the Broncos, before they can make subsequent decisions on the team’s future ownership.
And two, the trustees do seem determined to carry out Pat Bowlen’s plan.
In Bowlen’s last media interview with a certain Broncos reporter from the Denver Post in August 2013, the team owner said from his office:
"If something were to happen to me, I've already made this clear: This team is going to stay in the Bowlen family no matter what. It's a great asset. And it's a lot of fun if you do it right.''
“No matter what” has been modified to “support Brittany, kids. Or else.’’
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