The Broncos don’t have an owner. They haven’t had one since the late Pat Bowlen placed the team into the control of a three-person trust as his health failed. By next year, the team hopes to once again have one owner in charge of the team.
Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis, one of the three trustees who have been running the team in recent years, addressed reporters on Tuesday as training camp opens. Before taking questions, he offered an explanation of the plans for resolving the ownership issue sooner than later.
“Looking ahead to the future, I would tell you this,” Ellis said. “I said it in a brief statement a few weeks ago. Our goal is a timely, responsible and orderly determination of ownership. What that will entail for us — there’s some things that we still need to work through — but our goal is to be able to lay out, when the season is over . . . that we lay out for everybody a timeline to a transition of ownership that will take place next year prior to the start of the season. That’s important. It’s important to the organization. It’s important to the beneficiaries — Pat [Bowlen]’s children — to get it resolved and we’re moving forward on that. The team is not for sale. There are a few options out there as to what we can do. You’re probably aware of those. We’re going to get through this season. Our goal is to focus on that, have a good year and hopefully be competitive and be around for the postseason tournament once that begins. That’s where our focus is. Until the season’s over, you’re not going to hear a whole lot about the future of ownership of the team.”
Ellis explained that he has communicated regularly with the league office regarding the plan. Most recently, Ellis visited Commissioner Roger Goodell at his summer home in Maine “and kind of laid out the plan.”
“He seemed acceptable to it,” Ellis said of Goodell. “He was fine with it, actually.”
So what will actually happen?
“Ownership will be concluded,” Ellis said. “We’ll have a transition. Yours truly won’t be the controlling owner by sometime in the spring or early summer. I can’t put an exact deadline on it, but believe me, we need to get it resolved.”
They need to get it resolved because it will become very expensive if it doesn’t. As noted by the Denver Post, the NFL has ordered the Broncos to have one sole owner (even if it’s just one trustee) by March 2022 or “face millions in potential fines.”
Of the seven children of Pat Bowlen, Brittany Bowlen continues to be the favorite to inherit the reins of ownership.
“She’s working hard and adding a lot of value in a lot of different areas,” Ellis said. “I’m conversing with her all the time. We have weekly meetings. In some form, her being able to run the team is a consideration, for sure. It will require some conditions from beneficiaries and others, perhaps. If she is going to run it, that conclusion will be made sometime next year as well. That’s one of the options, for sure. As I said, there are certain conditions that come with that. I’m not going to comment too much on those because those involve discussions with other beneficiaries and those are private in my view.”
Before Brittany Bowlen can take over, all seven Pat Bowlen children must agree to it.
“If Brittany is going to move forward, there’s going to have to be an agreement among all the family members in some form that she can do that,” Ellis said. “There still needs to be — in some form — consent from every family member for that to happen. That can come in different ways, but I don’t want to elaborate on that because those are discussions we’re having privately with beneficiaries.”
Ellis therefore wisely declined to say whether ownership will remain within the Bowlen family. This means that there’s a chance it won’t.
“Well, the sale of the team is always possible, obviously,” Ellis said. “If it’s going to stay in the family, Brittany is really the other option. There are certain, as I said, conditions that will go with that. They could come in various forms. There might be one or two other options within that option, if that makes sense.”
It sounds as if Ellis is referring to some sort of hybrid arrangement, perhaps with someone from the outside buying out the interests of family members who prefer to cash out and move on, with Brittany Bowlen possibly becoming the sole owner after that.
Whatever happens, it needs to happen soon. Based on the things Ellis said Tuesday, it sounds as if it will.