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Court trial pitting Broncos against Kaiser right of first refusal claim begins Wednesday

PDB Sports says that because former Broncos owners Pat D. Bowlen and Edward Kaiser are deceased, the ROFR rights are no longer valid.

DENVER — Before Broncos ownership pitches can be heard from the likes of John Elway or Peyton Manning, Pat Bowlen’s trustees have a potential right-of-first refusal impediment from the executors of the Edward Kaiser Jr. estate that will be addressed in a Denver District courtroom.

PDB Sports and Bowlen Sports take on the Kaiser estate’s ROFR Holdings beginning Wednesday in Denver’s Second District Court with Judge Shelley Gilman presiding. PDB (initials for Patrick Dennis Bowlen) Sports owns the Broncos’ franchise and filed the lawsuit against ROFR Holdings, which was created in 2005 by now deceased former Broncos owner Edward Kaiser Jr.

>>Video above: Legal questions continue to surround Broncos ownership

Dan Reilly, lead attorney for the Pat Bowlen Trust and most things Broncos, and Fennemore lawyer Clare Pennington will argue in court that because Bowlen and Kaiser have both died, the right of first refusal rights are no longer valid.

Kaiser died in 2012 and Bowlen passed away following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s in 2019.

PDB Sports attorneys also contend there were other provisions met that triggered the termination of the ROFR agreement.

Kaiser was the Broncos’ owner from 1981-84, a period highlighted by his acquisition of Elway from the Baltimore Colts in an owner-to-owner trade arranged with Colts’ owner Robert Irsay.

In March 1984, Kaiser sold the Broncos to Bowlen. The sale came with an agreement that Kaiser would have 14 days after notification of a potential sale by Bowlen to match any potential offer. Joe Ellis, the Broncos’ CEO and president and one of three trustees of the Pat Bowlen Trust, stated in late-July an ownership transition for the Broncos would begin after the completion of the 2021 NFL season. Ellis has also said the new controlling owner would either be Pat Bowlen’s daughter Brittany Bowlen, or another investor if the franchise was put up for sale.

In May 2020, James Kilroy, an attorney representing ROFR (Right of First Refusal) Holdings, sent a letter to Bowlen trustee and Broncos general counsel Rich Slivka stating, “Our client is the holder of any and all Rights of First Refusal and Broncos Interests … referred to and identified in the March 16, 1984 sales agreement between Kaiser and Bowlen and again when the sales agreement was amended and officially executed on June 1, 1984.’’

Legal representatives of PDB Sports and Bowlen Sports countered by filing suit against ROFR Holdings Ltd, Et all, which includes Kaiser widow and co-executor Susan Mullen Kaiser, plus two other executors, Hans Johann Krutzen and Howard Kellough, and Twelve LLC., a minority shareholder of ROFR Holdings.

The seven day trial will run from Wednesday through next Thursday. Judge Gilman will then have 30 days to render her verdict.

Credit: AP
** FILE ** Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, left, and his wife, Annabelle, are shown in this file photograph taken on March 6, 2003, in a downtown Denver hotel. A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2006, ruled that the way the John Elway offer was structured, 10 percent of shares in a company that held ownership of the team, not the team itself, was not covered by the provisions of the contract covering Edward Kaiser Jr.'s sale to Bowlen. Kaiser Jr. sold his 60.8 percent share in the team to Pat Bowlen in 1984 and sued in 1998 after Bowlen offered former Quarterback Elway a portion of the team. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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