ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Save Money. Live Better. And if necessary, put up $4 billion to $5 billion to buy the Denver Broncos.
A source confirmed to 9NEWS that Rob Walton, a longtime chairman of Walmart, and his associates are visiting with Broncos executives today. The visit was scheduled to include stops at Empower Field at Mile High and Broncos’ headquarters in Dove Valley.
Much of the visit is spent with the ownership candidate's lawyers and accounts pouring over the Broncos' expenditures and revenues, with the team's lawyers and accountants going over the ownership candidate's assets and debts. The candidates meet with several of the team's executives.
Another potential Broncos buyer, Josh Harris and his group of investors, visited the Broncos last Thursday and Friday.
Walton is the oldest son of the late Sam Walton, who founded the Walmart discount retail stores. Walmart’s slogan changed from “Always Low Prices. Always,” to “Save Money. Live Better,” in 2007.
Rob Walton appears ready to veer from his longtime company’s slogan to spend big on the Broncos.
When Sam Walton died of cancer in 1992, his oldest son Rob took over as Walmart’s chairman and remained in the top post until 2015, when his son-in-law Greg Penner became Walmart’s chairman. Penner has long been married to his college sweetheart Carrie Walton, Rob’s daughter.
Penner is part of Rob Walton’s bid to buy the Broncos, sources have told 9NEWS. Rob Walton, 77, is also the uncle of Ann Walton, who married Stan Kroenke in 1974.
Kroenke currently owns the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams and with his son Josh Kroenke, also owns the NHL Colorado Avalanche, the NBA Denver Nuggets and the Ball Arena where the Avs and Nuggets play their home games.
Rob Walton played football for College of Wooster in Ohio before transferring to the University of Arkansas, where he graduated in 1966 with an accounting degree. He then attended Columbia Law School in New York and after earning his Doctor of Jurisprudence started his professional career with a law firm in Tulsa, Okla., his birth home. When Rob was 26, his dad lured him back to his hometown of Bentonville, Ark., and the family Walmart business, where his legal expertise was often used in taking the company public and in ever-expanding real-estate deals.
There was the one-year sabbatical for Ironman training in 1985.
Robson Walton has had property addresses listed in Scottsdale, Ariz., Bentonville, Ark., Aspen, Nederland and Boulder. The Penners have had property addresses listed in Snowmass Village and Aspen.
There are several Walton grandchildren living in Colorado and the Denver area. Per Walmart’s financial report from October 31, 2021, there were 105 retail stores in Colorado – 70 supercenters, 4 discount stores, 14 neighborhood markets and 17 Sam’s Clubs -- that employed more than 31,000 workers. Including players and coaches, the Denver Broncos have about 375 employees.
Rob Walton’s net worth has been listed in the $60 billion to $70 billion range, depending on the financial media outlet. Sources have told 9NEWS the team’s bidding process has been narrowed from 10 bidders to five following a first round of bids, with those five investment groups scheduled to visit the Broncos in the next week or so. Todd Boehly, an investor in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Lakers, and expected to soon finalize a deal with the Chelsea soccer club in the Premier League, is also bidding to buy the Broncos.
Sources familiar with the Broncos’ auction say there are two other investment groups involved in the bidding who wish to remain anonymous.
A call for a second round of bids is expected later this month, a source told 9NEWS. The Broncos' next controlling owner is expected anywhere from late June to prior to the team's season opener in September.
The Broncos have officially been for sale via the Pat Bowlen Trust since Feb. 1. Pat Bowlen was the Broncos' owner from 1984 until he was declared incapacitated from Alzheimer's in December 2013. Bowlen died from complications of Alzheimer's in June 2019.
For the sake of his beneficiaries -- Pat Bowlen's seven children and his wife Annabel, who is also battlin Alzheimer's -- the Broncos are being sold via auction. Pat Bowlen's brother John holds 22 percent minority interest in the Broncos with each of Pat's seven children owning 11.14 percent.
Only after the controlling owner becomes known would the Broncos’ new owner or owners consider bringing in Broncos Hall of Fame quarterbacks John Elway and Peyton Manning. Elway told 9News he would like to be involved in the Broncos’ new ownership group in an advisory or consultant capacity. Multiple potential Broncos buyers have reached out to Manning to gauge his interest but he has yet to commit to any one group.
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