New owners for Broncos as record $4.65bn takeover concludes

The world-record $4.65bn (£3.85bn/€4.56bn) takeover of the Denver Broncos has officially been completed, with the new owners of the NFL American football franchise set to assess the future of its Empower Field at Mile High stadium.

The Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group was officially approved by a unanimous vote of NFL owners at a special league meeting in Minnesota yesterday (Tuesday). The announcement came after the Broncos in June agreed a takeover deal for the Walton-Penner family to become the new owners of the franchise.

The agreement sees the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group 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 Broncos’ impending new ownership group will be led by billionaire Rob Walton; his son-in-law, Greg Penner; and daughter Carrie Walton Penner. Walton, the son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, has an estimated worth of $60bn and is entering sports franchise ownership for the first time through the deal. Penner succeeded Rob Walton as Walmart chairman in 2015.

At the time of the initial announcement, Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments, agreed to join the ownership group, which has since received further high-profile membership. Former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has come on board, while seven-time Formula 1 world champion, Lewis Hamilton, was last week announced as a member of the group.

The Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group will also be assisted by outgoing Broncos president/CEO Joe Ellis, who has agreed to serve as an adviser for the 2022 season. 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.”

The Broncos’ home opened in 2001 with the assistance of taxpayer funds and while it is still only two decades old it now lacks the modern amenities associated with new NFL venues such as SoFi Stadium and Allegiant Stadium.

Addressing the stadium situation, Penner said at a news conference: “I’ll say that Empower Field at Mile High is a world-class facility. It’s obviously hosted football games, as well as other terrific sporting and entertainment events.

“We’ve got a good partnership with the Metropolitan Football Stadium District and fortunately have almost 10 years left on our lease, so we’ll evaluate all of our options and really dig in and understand the situation before making any decisions.”

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 was the $2.475bn paid by Steven Cohen in 2020 for Major League Baseball franchise the New York Mets.

The recent takeover of English Premier League football club Chelsea by a consortium led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital briefly held the world record for a sports team acquisition.

Image: Troutfarm27/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size