NATIONAL Football League (NFL) owners unanimously approved the sale of the Denver Broncos to an ownership group led by Rob Walton, whose father founded Walmart, on Tuesday at league meetings in Bloomington, MN.
The Walton-Penner Ownership Group agreed to pay $4.65 billion — a record price for a sports franchise — to settle the purchase from the Bowlen family. The late Pat Bowlen, and his heirs, had owned the team for 38 years.
The two sides agreed to the deal in June.
“We are grateful for the support and trust of the National Football League and the 31 other teams with today’s vote. We couldn’t be more excited to join the Denver Broncos,” Walton said in a news release on Tuesday.
“It’s a responsibility and privilege to serve as stewards of such an iconic franchise. We have tremendous respect for what Pat Bowlen has meant to the Broncos and look forward to building on this organization’s championship legacy.”
Forbes pegs the net worth of the 77-year-old Walton at $65 billion, putting him in 19th place on the publication’s list of billionaires. He is the richest owner in the NFL, with only Steve Ballmer of the Los Angeles Clippers worth more — $91.4 billion — among North American sports teams.
The previous record sales price for an NFL franchise was the $2.275 billion David Tepper paid for the Carolina Panthers in 2018.
Walton’s ownership team also includes his daughter, Carrie, and her husband, Greg Penner, as well as notables such as Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state, and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton. The Penners are expected to lead day-to-day operations.
“Looking ahead, I am confident the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group will add to the Broncos’ championship tradition on and off the field while putting their own stamp on this great organization,” said longtime Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis, who is stepping down as the franchise changes hands. “I was asked by them to serve as an advisor to ownership for this season, and I’ve accepted their request to help in the transition however possible.”
Forbes valued the Broncos at $3.75 billion in 2021, estimating it at No. 10 on the list of franchise valuation.
Rob Walton now becomes the second NFL owner from the extended Walton family. Ann Walton Kroenke, who is Rob Walton’s cousin, is married to Stan Kroenke, owner of the Los Angeles Rams.
And they can have a family reunion of sorts. The Kroenkes also own the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL and the Denver Nuggets of the NBA.
While the Waltons have roots in Arkansas, where Walmart was founded, the ownership group intends to make a difference in Colorado, Walton said.
“While we’re deeply committed to fielding a great team to win Super Bowls, our family and extraordinary partners are also dedicated to our off-the-field responsibilities to Broncos Country and the Rocky Mountain region,” he said. “Most importantly, we will strive to make the Denver Broncos the best team to cheer for, play for and work for in all of sports.” — Reuters