NFL Football

Broncos sale to Walton group unanimously OKed by NFL owners

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

By DAVE CAMPBELL

AP Pro Football Writer

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) The record $4.65 billion sale of the Denver Broncos to Walmart heir Rob Walton and his daughter and son-in-law was unanimously approved Tuesday by NFL owners, the expected final step in the transfer from the family of the late Pat Bowlen.

The vote was taken at a league meeting at a hotel in Minnesota, where Walton, his daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and her husband, Greg Penner, were introduced to the media by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. With an estimated worth of $60 billion, Walton - the eldest son of Walmart founder Sam Walton - becomes the wealthiest owner in the league.

Walton's group paid the highest price in history for a sports franchise anywhere in the world. His three limited partners are Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, Starbucks board chair Mellody Hobson and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. All three investors are Black, satisfying an NFL goal to bring more racial diversity into ownership groups, front offices and coaching staffs.

The Pat Bowlen Trust ran the franchise after Bowlen stepped back from day-to-day duties in 2014 because of Alzheimer's disease. He died in 2019, one month before his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Bowlen wanted one of his children to take over the team and Brittany Bowlen, now 32, was the trustees' selected successor. Not all of her siblings supported that choice, so the club was put up for sale. Brittany Bowlen stepped down as the team's vice president of strategy after the Walton-Penner group was awarded the franchise with their winning bid.

Only one other NFL club has been sold in the last 10 years: the Carolina Panthers from Jerry Richardson to David Tepper for what was then a record $2.2 billion.

The Broncos are now the first team since the 2008 Miami Dolphins to change primary owners, head coaches and starting quarterbacks in one offseason.

"I am excited about coming in here every day to play football. When it comes to the ownership, I am so excited to get to know them, to meet them, and move forward. I know there has been an amazing history here, and you can learn a lot from history - the good, the bad, and everything," new coach Nathaniel Hackett said "Right now, it is just about putting ourselves in a position to win some football games."

The first major decision under the Walton group's watch will be a contract extension for new quarterback Russell Wilson, who arrived via trade with the Seattle Seahawks in March. The new deal for the nine-time Pro Bowl pick is expected to be in the range of $260 million and five years.

Another pressing issue: assessing the stadium situation. Though Empower Field at Mile High is only 21 years old, it lacks the frills and revenue-producing features of new venues like SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, home of the AFC West rival Chargers and Raiders.

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AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.

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Updated August 9, 2022

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