ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Greg Penner has already smoked Josh Harris once.
Can Penner beat Harris again this Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High when the 0-1, Penner-run Broncos meet the 1-0, Harris-run Washington Commanders?
It was 15 months ago when Penner, with a big assist from his father-in-law Rob Walton and wife Carrie Walton-Penner, organized a Walton-Penner group that was easily the top choice as Broncos’ owners when the bidding auction was called on June 7.
Walton-Penner paid $4.65 billion for the Broncos with the money after taxes and fees to be split by the beneficiaries of the Pat Bowlen estate – the late Mr. B’s seven children.
Rob Walton is the controlling owner with 34 percent investment in Broncos’ ownership. Penner holds 30 percent and is the team’s CEO. His wife Carrie also put in 30 percent so the Penners combined for 60 percent of the purchase price.
At auction’s end, which was run by Steve Greenberg of Allen & Company and Joe Lecesse of Proskauer Rose LLP , there were three other ownership groups who made substantial, final-day bids to purchase the Broncos. One group was led by Harris, another by Matt Ishbia, and the other by Jose E. Feliciano.
A source said Harris group had the second-most attractive bid for the Broncos, although not only was Walton-Penner never going to be surpassed in terms of total dollars, the structure of their deal was also considerably more solid than all other bids. The Walton-Penner ownership group’s purchase received rubber-stamp approval from the entire NFL ownership body two months later.
Ishbia later traded his football in for basketball and became owner of the NBA Phoenix Suns. Harris got a nice consolation prize in the NFL Washington Commanders, which he obtained along with 14 other partners from Daniel Snyder for $6.05 billion.
Harris’ partnership group, which included Earvin “Magic” Johnson in his bids for both the Broncos and Commanders, was considerably strengthened for the Washington purchase with the addition of billionaire Mitch Rales.
So far Walton-Penner has done about as much as an NFL ownership group can do for its team. It spent big money on newly acquired quarterback Russell Wilson last year. It spent big money on new head coach Sean Payton this year. And Broncos’ owners also spent $100 million to renovate Empower Field at Mile High and more money than any other team in free agency.
Owners can only provide its teams with resources, though. And resources alone don’t win. The Broncos lost their season opener to the Las Vegas Raiders, 17-16, while Washington rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Arizona, 20-16.
Now it’s Walton-Penner and Harris in competition again in week 2 of the NFL season.
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