The Denver Broncos have agreed a takeover deal for the Walton-Penner family to become the new owners of the NFL American football franchise, in what is set to be a record fee for a North American sports team.
The agreement, reported to be worth $4.65bn (£3.7bn/€4.35bn), calls for the Walton-Penner family to acquire the Broncos from the Pat Bowlen Trust. The sale process commenced on February 1 after the trust for late team owner Pat Bowlen announced it would be selling the franchise.
The announcement yesterday (Tuesday) evening came shortly after a second round of bids were entered for the Broncos. The Walton-Penner family emerged victorious after seeing off rival bids from Josh Harris, Mat Ishbia and Jose Feliciano, according to the Denver Post newspaper.
The Broncos’ impending new ownership group will be led by billionaire Rob Walton and his son-in-law, Greg Penner. Walton, the son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, is entering sports franchise ownership for the first time through the deal. Penner succeeded Rob Walton as Walmart chairman in 2015.
Rob Walton said in a statement: “Having lived and worked in Colorado, we’ve always admired the Broncos. Our enthusiasm has only grown as we’ve learned more about the team, staff and Broncos Country over the last few months.
“We are excited to announce that Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments, has agreed to join our ownership group. Beyond her role at Ariel, Mellody is an influential leader in corporate and civic organizations across the nation.
“Mellody currently serves as chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation and is also a director of JPMorgan Chase. We know she will bring her strategic acumen and leadership perspective to our team.
“We look forward to earning the confidence and support of the NFL as we take the next step in this process. When the necessary approval procedures are met, our family is excited to share more with Broncos fans, the organisation and the community.”
The Carolina Panthers had held the record for an NFL franchise takeover when David Tepper paid $2.3bn for the team in 2018. The outright record for a North American sports team is the $2.475bn paid by Steven Cohen in 2020 for Major League Baseball franchise the New York Mets.
The agreement is subject to approval from the NFL’s finance committee and league ownership, which is not expected to raise issues with the deal, as well as the satisfaction of customary closing procedures.
Broncos president and CEO, Joe Ellis, said: “I have enjoyed getting to know Rob Walton, Carrie Walton Penner and Greg Penner throughout this process. Learning more about their background and vision for the Denver Broncos, I am confident that their leadership and support will help this team achieve great things on and off the field.
“While this purchase and sale agreement is pending approval from the NFL’s finance committee and league ownership, today marks a significant step on the path to an exciting new chapter in Broncos history.”
Speaking in March, Ellis described the team’s long-term stadium plans at Empower Field at Mile High as “the No. 1 decision the new owner will have to make.”