ENGLEWOOD, Colorado – A Denver judge on Tuesday ruled that the heirs of former Broncos owner Edgar Kaiser Jr. can not repurchase any part of the franchise as part of a pre-emption agreement, paving the way for a potential sale of the team.
A holding group representing Kaiser’s property had asked the court to deny any sale of the franchise dating back to when Kaiser sold the team to Pat Bowlen in 1984. Kaiser died in 2012 and Bowlen died in 2019.
Denver District Judge Shelley L. Gilman ruled that Kaiser’s heirs had no claim and that the right of first refusal included in the 1984 sale agreement between Kaiser and Bowlen “was no longer valid or enforceable in any respect.”
The Broncos are currently owned by the Pat Bowlen Trust, which was set up by the Bowlen before stepping down from the team’s day-to-day operations in 2014. The Bowlen died in 2019 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Broncos CEO Joe Ellis, one of three trustees overseeing the team’s operations, has said that if Bowlen’s children can not agree on a majority owner, the team will likely be sold. That agreement between siblings is not expected – a lawsuit between them was ready to go to court before it was rejected in July last year – and the team is formally expected to go on sale in the coming months.
“We are pleased to be able to put this issue behind us and move closer to moving ownership of the Broncos,” Ellis said Tuesday in a statement. “While our focus is on our leadership search, we plan to publish a notice of ownership shortly after the lease is completed.”
The Broncos fired head coach Vic Fangio Sunday after hitting a 19-30 record in three seasons, including this year’s 7-10 finish. The Broncos have had five losing seasons in a row and have missed the playoffs six years in a row.
The Broncos have been valued at just under $ 4 billion, and Hall of Fame quarterbacks John Elway and Peyton Manning have at times each expressed interest in potentially being part of a group that would bid for the team. Manning said earlier this season, when he was inducted into the team’s Ring of Fame, that he would “listen” to any proposal to become a member of an ownership group, but “that it should fit right.”
League rules say a “majority” owner must own at least 30% of a franchise, so in a $ 4 billion sale it would mean the majority investor would have to control $ 1.2 billion.
Ellis said when the Broncos opened training camp last summer that he expected the transfer of ownership to possibly take place before the 2022 season. He touched on the ownership situation again on Sunday when he took questions about the team’s head coach search and said Tuesday’s decision had to come before he could offer a schedule.
“I had told you – I’m thinking back in July – that I would talk to you as soon as the season is over, about a transfer of ownership,” Ellis said Sunday. “… Out of respect for the court, I will wait and return to you at a later date about it. … I want the court to be able to let its process see through to the end. From there, I will be able to come back to you and tell you where things stand. ”