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Ellis: 'More than 5, less than 20 bids' on Broncos ownership

Several bidding groups have minority representations which the NFL has now strongly encouraged through a resolution passed Monday.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — During the full body of NFL owner membership here Monday, the Denver Broncos’ impending ownership sale was addressed.

It was explained that the bidding and vetting is ongoing and Joe Ellis, the Broncos’ CEO and ownership delegee for the past 11 seasons, stood up and thanked everyone for their patience.

He was asked more pointed questions during a sit-down interview Monday afternoon with 9NEWS along the bouncing shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

"I can’t tell you who it’s going to be, and I can’t tell you who’s bidding on it because we’ve been sworn to confidentiality on that," Ellis said. "But I can tell you, and tell Broncos Country, that there are lot of qualified people who have a significant interest in purchasing the team who are passionate about the team and the market and the fan base and know all about it."

A lot? Give us a number, Joe.

"It’s more than five and less than 20," Ellis said. "And there’s a lot of people that would like to be involved in some part whether they’re not the controlling owner. It’s been a pretty robust process so far…And I’ll stick to the timeline I think I said back in January which is we should have a new owner in place by the start of the regular season. I cannot guarantee that."

As the Broncos go through their auction process, NFL owners just happened to pass a resolution Monday that encourages increased diversity among ownership, including strongly considering minority representation within prospective ownership groups that are bidding to buy a team. This means either the league wants a minority controlling owner for the Broncos or a partnership-type structure in which the lead investor would have at least 30% stake in the team, as is required by NFL rule, while other minority investors would be involved in a partnership-type ownership structure.

Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II, whose dad was the namesake of the league’s Rooney Rule, was asked if this means the league expects the Broncos new ownership group to have minority representation and would they be disappointed if they did not.

"My understanding at this point is there are minority participants in several of the groups that are bidding," Rooney said.  

"I will tell you there are plenty of minority interested investors who have called me and talked to me and asked me about being part of a membership of an ownership group within the Broncos,’’ Ellis said. “And they may get paired up with another owner, they may not. It’s not a requirement. But I’ve been impressed by the number of people that have come forward that have expressed an interest including a significant number of black candidates and some Latino candidates. I think by encouraging it sends a good message, and gets people interested that they may otherwise think they wouldn’t have a chance to be part of something. So I think it’s a good step by the league. I think there’s a lot of work to do on diversity across all levels of our organization and all levels of the league. That continues. I think we’re getting better in all areas. But there’s still a lot of work to do."

There is minority representation among the Broncos’ new owners. And there is the possibility of Hall of Fame representation. John Elway told 9NEWS he wants to be part of the new ownership group while taking on a consultant role. Peyton Manning has said he’s listening.

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"They’ve inquired is what I would tell you," Ellis said when asked about Elway and Manning specifically. "And they can speak for themselves about what they are inquiring about and what their interest is. Certainly, I think either one would be well-accepted by a group if a group or a potential owner would want to include them in the group. We’ll see where that shakes out."

Ellis said the two outside counsels hired to handle the team’s ownership transaction – Allen and Co., led by former MLB deputy commissioner and Denver Bears third baseman Steve Greenberg, and Proskauer Rose LLP’s Joe Lecesse – have currently opened the “Data Room” to prospective bidders, who have signed strict nondisclosure agreements. The Data Room?

"There’s a lot of quantitative stuff, obviously, about the team and its financial performance and about the league and its financial performance and the future of both the league and the team and what the prospects are and what the potential revenues are. All of those things are in there.

"And then there’s a lot of qualitative stuff in there about what it means to own the Broncos. And what the fan base is like and what the community is like. So a potential owner gets a feel for what it would take to own the Broncos and what it would mean to be a good owner of the Broncos. I’m really hopeful we’ll get somebody that understands our community, our fanbase, will be a present as an owner and be acceptable to the public in those forms."

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