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Trustees running Broncos seek extension in dispute over team's ownership

The question of which of Pat Bowlen's seven children will succeed him as the team's controlling owner is now the subject of an ongoing court fight. Bowlen's brother wants a judge to step in; the trustees running the team want the NFL to settle the issue.
Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Quarterback Case Keenum of the Denver Broncos dives into the end zone for a first quarter touchdown against the Cleveland Browns on Saturday.

The trustees running the Denver Broncos asked for more time Monday to reply to the latest court filings in the ongoing dispute over who will ultimately be named the team’s controlling owner.

Two of longtime owner Pat Bowlen’s daughters have expressed interest in succeeding him as the public face and decision-maker of the NFL team.

Beth Bowlen Wallace, one of Pat Bowlen’s two children from his first marriage, made it clear last spring that she wanted to succeed him as the team’s controlling owner. Brittany Bowlen – one of his five children from his current marriage to Annabel – also wants the job.

Three trustees selected to run the team after Pat Bowlen was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease have the job of filling the position, a process that’s been ongoing since 2014 when the longtime owner stepped away from the team in the face of his illness.

In recent months, Pat Bowlen’s brother, Bill Bowlen, has gone to court, seeking an order removing the three trustees. The trustees, in turn, want a judge to put Bill Bowlen’s lawsuit on hold and allow the NFL to settle the dispute.

Monday’s filing by the trustees – Joe Ellis, the president and CEO of the team; Richard Slivka, the team’s executive vice president and general counsel; and Mary Kelly, Pat Bowlen’s longtime attorney – asked for more time to answer Bill Bowlen’s recent demand that a judge schedule a hearing and prevent the case from being turned over to the NFL. The filing was confirmed by Rob McCallum, spokesperson for the Colorado Judicial Branch.

Pat Bowlen’s wish was that the trustees would identify one of his seven children to succeed him as the team’s controlling owner after a selection process that would be based on work experience, education and other factors.

Court documents filed in recent months lay bare the intra-family dispute over the long-term future of the Broncos’ ownership. Beth Bowlen Wallace announced her intention last spring to run the Broncos and has the support of her sister, Amie Bowlen Klemmer.

However, the trustees issued a statement saying she “is not capable or qualified at this time” to lead the team.

The trustees appear to be grooming Brittany Bowlen for the role as controlling owner of the team.

Bill Bowlen’s motion in Arapahoe County District Court seeks the removal of the three trustees. Among Bill Bowlen’s assertions is that the trustees “are refusing the implement a long-term succession plan that meets Patrick D. Bowlen’s stated goals of keeping the Denver Broncos Football Club in his family and under the management and control of his children, knowing that implementation of that plan essentially means the defendants will be working themselves out of a position with the Denver Broncos Football Club.”

Ellis, Slivka and Kelly, Bill Bowlen charged, “are causing dysfunction within the Denver Broncos Football Club and the Bowlen family.”

Bill Bowlen no longer has an ownership stake in the Broncos, but earlier this year he came out in favor of Beth Bowlen Wallace taking control of the team.

In November, attorneys for Ellis, Slivka and Kelly responded with a request that the NFL settle the dispute.

That filing also reiterated the position of the trustees: “Simply stated, in the trustees’ judgment, Ms. Wallace lacks the business experience and acumen, knowledge, leadership skills, integrity and character necessary to be the sole individual running an NFL franchise valued at $2.5 billion.”

Contact 9NEWS reporter Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: kevin.vaughan@9news.com or 303-871-1862.

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