Departure of three Bowlen children from Broncos invites speculation of eventual sale

Getty Images

With Broncos owner Pat Bowlen already relinquishing day-to-day control as he battles Alzheimer’s disease, questions have lingered for months regarding the future of the franchise. Tuesday’s developments will serve only to fuel speculation that, in the not-too-distant future, the franchise will be owned by someone not named “Bowlen.”

Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post reported that the three children of Pat Bowlen who had been working for the team are no longer working for the team. 30-year-old John Michael Bowlen’s departure likely was fueled at least in part by his legal troubles of the past year. Two of his sisters, 26-year-old Brittany Bowlen and 45-year-old Jane Elizabeth “Beth” Bowlen Wallace, also are no longer employed by the Broncos.

Of Bowlen’s four other children, one of them — 32-year-old Patrick Bowlen III — serves as a “facilities coordinator” with the stadium management company owned by the Broncos. Bowlen has three other children, daughters who are 47, 23, and 18.

Eventually, one or more of the Bowlen children will be selected to run the team. As Jhabvala explains it, Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis (pictured) said in 2014 that Bowlen developed a plan to keep the team in the family. For now, the team has been placed in a trust, with Ellis running it.

“[I]t is . . . Mr. Bowlen’s hope,” Ellis said, “that a child will come along, earn the right to sit in his seat and run the team. And that child, having spoken with the kids, understands that they will never fill his shoes. But hopefully they will earn the right to sit in the chair someday.”

Ellis didn’t say what will happen if none of the Bowlen children “earn the right to sit in the chair.” Currently, none of the seven appears to be on track to do so. With 75 percent of those who were employed by the team now not employed by the team, the pool of candidates seems to be dwindling.

If, eventually, there’s no one with the ability or the desire to do “earn the right to sit in the chair,” the alternatives will be to continue to run the team through a surrogate or to sell it. Without having access to the trust documents, it’s impossible to know when and how that time would come. It’s safe to assume that Ellis himself will have a major role in making that eventual decision.