Woody Paige: Lots of options for Broncos ownership, but will it measure up to Mr. Bowlen?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Jul. 31—Practically nobody in Colorado realizes that the Denver Broncos' franchise has encompassed 24 owners since its establishment in 1959.

A 25th will become the NFL team's controlling owner in 2022.

The new owner will be Brittany Bowlen or Somebody Else.

And fresh investors could join the lengthy list of former majority and minority partners over the Broncos' 62-year span.

The one person who couldn't own the Broncos was the one-time wealthiest Coloradan — Marvin Davis. The colossal oil magnate, worth $6 billion in the 1980s when he owned a mansion south of Hamden Avenue, Pebble Beach Golf Club, an Aspen ski resort, 20th Century Fox movie studio, the Beverly Hills Hotel and dozens of companies and properties throughout the world, including the area that became the sprawling Highlands Ranch community.

But he wanted the Broncos most of all.

However, the Broncos' owners for 16 years — Gerald and Allan Phipps — refused to sell to Davis, who had purchased the Phipps family ranch and 22,000 acres south of Denver for $13 million in 1976. Davis resold the land two years later for $24 million. The Phipps brothers were so furious with Davis they did a deal for the Broncos with Canadian Edgar Kaiser Jr. in 1981 for $33 million, with one stipulation — the franchise never could be offered, in perpetuity, to Davis (who died in 2004).

In 1984 Kaiser sold his 61 percent — John Adams and Timothy Borden of Steamboat Springs owned 39 percent — to Pat Bowlen and his family for $71 million. Eventually, Adams and Borden received $20 million for their share.

Robert Howsam, who owned the minor league Denver Bears and the baseball stadium, joined the upstart American Football League with his brother and father as partners in 1959 for $50,000. They sold out in '61 to a group of five Denver businessmen — including Gerald Phipps and former World War II U.S. Marine and farmer Calvin Kunz — for $250,000. In 1964 construction company owner Phipps and his brother, Allan, an attorney, bought the 52 percent owned by Kunz for $1.5 million.

In 2021 the Broncos are the 25th most valuable professional franchise in the world at an estimated $3.2 billion.

The old worthless franchise of the 1960s will be worth at least $3.5 billion when the new controlling owner takes over next year — in the spring-summer, according to Broncos' chief executive officer, president, Bowlen Family Trust member and de facto owner Joe Ellis.

On Tuesday at the Broncos' pre-training camp media conference Ellis announced that the Broncos' "goal is a timely, responsible and orderly determination of ownership" that will lead to a transition to a new owner before the start of '22 season.

Brittany Bowlen, executive VP of strategy (whatever that means), is the successor-in-training (at 31) choice of the three trustees.

But Brittany's ascension is not a sure thing.

Ellis acknowledged that "there are a few options out there as to what we can do" in the aftermath of the dismissal this month of the lawsuit filed against the trustees by the oldest Pat Bowlen daughters — Amie Bowlen Klemmer and Beth Bowlen Wallace.

Klemmer and Wallace, from Pat's first marriage, could be bought out by the five children of Pat and Annabel Bowlen — Patrick III, John Jr., Brittany, Annabel and Christianna. John Bowlen, Pat's brother, still owns a 20 percent share of the Broncos ($640 million value). Beth and Amie each would get about $366 million.

The other five Bowlens are mere millionaires, so the trustees would have to find investors to replace the departing Bowlens. But, like John Bowlen, the two wouldn't have voting rights or any executive power.

Another alternative is a majority percentage block is sold by the Bowlen family to a solo buyer or a group of stakeholders with one controlling owner who holds more than 10 percent, based on NFL ownership rules.

The possibilities include Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world ($211 billion last week). He has expressed interest in four other NFL ownerships and does spend time in Aspen, where his parents own a home, and he has ridden a horse on New Year's Day into a Western apparel store. Another candidate, Oracle Corporation CEO Larry Ellison, is worth $112 billion, competes in yachting's World Cup and owns Indian Wells Tennis Center. He lost out on a bid for the Warriors and has made inquiries about more sports franchises.

The other options might be an additional buyout, of "Johnny" Bowlen, in exile from the franchise, or all seven children retain their pieces, or a Colorado consortium emerges with an intent to buy.

The Broncos definitely will have new ownership by next training camp when an important question becomes — Will he or she or they ever be as great as Mr. B?

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting