Who Owns the Denver Broncos? Team Might Be Up for Sale

The NFL's Denver Broncos could be up for sale next year, depending on how a court case regarding prior owners' rights plays out.

Kathryn Underwood - Author

Dec. 20 2021, Published 9:50 a.m. ET

Denver Broncos players
Source: Denver Broncos Facebook

The ownership of the NFL’s Denver Broncos has been the subject of litigation this fall. The parties involved have been debating whether a 1984 agreement is still in place. The team, currently owned by PDB Sports, might be up for sale sometime in the new year, depending on the outcome of the Denver Second District Court case.

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PDB Sports is the group that represents the estate of the late Pat Bowlen, who purchased the franchise in 1984 from Edgar Kaiser. Joe Ellis is the team’s president and CEO. In July, he said that the team will announce a succession plan after the current season. Sources say that former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is a possible new team owner.

Pat Bowlen
Source: Denver Broncos Facebook

Pat Bowlen, former owner of the Denver Broncos, died in 2019.

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Denver Broncos case revolves around the right of first refusal.

At the heart of the question of whether the Denver Broncos will go up for sale in the near future is the decision of whether the right of first refusal still exists. When Kaiser sold the Broncos in 1984 to Bowlen, they put a right of first refusal provision into the contract, which enables Kaiser to have the first shot at a buyback if Bowlen wanted to sell.

ROFR Holdings, Inc. is the partnership that Kaiser established in 2005 to preserve his right to match any forthcoming Broncos sale offer.

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PDB Sports filed the suit last May asking the court to rule that Kaiser wasn't able to transfer ROFR to another party. The group claims that several provisions that terminate the right of first refusal have all been met.

The judge in the case has to decide whether ROFR Holdings still has a claim to the right of first refusal. PDB Sports, the group representing Bowlen’s estate, asserts that the right of first refusal was terminated upon Kaiser’s death in 2012 and then Bowlen’s death in 2019.

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Kaiser lost two lawsuits seeking the right of first refusal. In 1999, Bowlen offered John Elway a 10 percent stake in the franchise along with the chance at another 10 percent. Kaiser sued Bowlen for the right to that deal, won initially, but lost in appellate court.

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When Bowlen acquired 23 percent of the team owned by his siblings, Kaiser sued again and lost.

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Peyton Manning
Source: Getty

Former Broncos QB Peyton Manning could be part of a new group seeking ownership of the Broncos.

Will the Broncos go up for sale?

According to The Athletic, “There is a general consensus in NFL and sports-banking circles that the Denver Broncos will be for sale once the season concludes.” One reason for this is that Bowlen's seven heirs must reach a consensus regarding who the controlling owner of the team is in order to keep the club off the market, which appears unlikely.

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If the right of first refusal is acknowledged, the ROFL could hinder any sale plans the Broncos might have. If the court rules in favor of PDB Holdings, a sale could happen in 2022.

How much are the Denver Broncos worth?

Denver’s NFL franchise could be worth a hefty price tag of around $3 billion, according to Forbes, and $4 billion, according to The Athletic.

In comparison, David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers in 2018 for $2.3 billion. Forbes reports that the potential increase in team values (for the Broncos and any future team sales) is due to the addition of gambling revenue, the dominance of the NFL in TV ratings, and the recent signing of an 11-year NFL television partner agreement.


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