For the first time since 1984, the Denver Broncos are going to have a new owner.
The Broncos announced on Tuesday night that they have entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the Walton-Penner family to acquire the team. The purchase group is led by Walmart heir Rob Walton who will be taking over ownership of the team along with his daughter (Carrie Welton Penner) and son-in-law (Greg Penner).
The sale calls for the Walton-Penner family to acquire the team from the Pat Bowlen Trust in a move that will need to be approved by the NFL's finance committee and league ownership before it becomes finalized, but at this point, both of those things should just be formalities.
Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis seems confident that the team will be in good hands moving forward.
"I have enjoyed getting to know Rob Walton, Carrie Walton Penner and Greg Penner throughout this process," Ellis said in a statement on Tuesday night. "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."
One of the reasons that Walton was interested in purchasing the Broncos is because he once lived in Colorado. "We are thrilled to be selected to move forward with the purchase of the Denver Broncos," Walton said in a statement. "Carrie, Greg and I are inspired by the opportunity to steward this great organization in a vibrant community full of opportunity and passionate fans. 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.
After the Broncos announced in February that the team was going to be sold, Walton almost immediately emerged as one of the front-runners to purchase the franchise. Walton, who is the son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, has an estimated net worth of $65 billion. According to Forbes, he's the 19th richest person in the world, and because of that, it was going to make it nearly impossible for anyone to outbid him.
According to 9News in Denver, the final purchase price for the Broncos is expected to be $4.65 billion, and if that does end up being the final number, it will shatter the record for the most money ever paid for a sports franchise in the United States. The record is currently held by the Nets, which sold for $2.35 billion in August 2019. The $4.65 billion price tag will also more than double the price of the most expensive NFL team ever sold, which came in 2018 when David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers for $2.275 billion.
Once the purchase is finalized, not only will Walton instantly become the NFL's richest owner, but he'll have a higher net worth than the NFL's six richest owners combined. Of the league's current owners, Tepper has the highest net worth at $16.7 billion.
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As recently as early April, the Broncos were expected to be sold for just north of $4 billion, but NFL teams are a hot commodity that don't come up for sale that often, which likely helped to drive up the price.
The sale ends 38 years of ownership by the Bowlen family. Pat Bowlen originally. From 1984 until his death in 2019, Bowlen oversaw one of the most successful teams in the NFL with the Broncos going to seven Super Bowls and winning three of them. Bowlen died in 2019 and his trust has been running the organization ever since. After his death three years ago, there was constant speculation that the team , but that didn't officially happen until February of this year.
As for Walton, although he'll be the first Walmart heir to own a team, he won't be the first with ties to NFL ownership. Walton's cousin, Ann Walton Kroenke, is the husband of Rams owner Stan Kroenke. If you're wondering about the family tree there, Sam Walton is Ann's uncle. Ann's father, Bud, was Sam's brother and a co-founder of Walmart.