The ugliness that has consumed the Denver Broncos has spread from the football field, where the Broncos are 17-22 since winning the Super Bowl, to the front office, where general manager John Elway has failed to find a new franchise quarterback, to the courthouse.
On Thursday night, the brother of Broncos owner Pat Bowlen filed a court motion to remove trustees Joe Ellis, Rich Slivka, and Mary Kelly from power, according to The Athletic's Nicki Jhabvala.
Ellis, Slivka, and Kelly -- with Ellis taking on the most prominent NFL role as team CEO and president -- have been serving as the top decision makers of the franchise since Bowlen was removed from power in 2014 due to his ongoing battle with Alzheimer's. The three trustees are in charge of the team's future, including finding the next controlling owner. According to The Athletic, Bill Bowlen alleges that the trustees are doing "everything they can to delay Pat Bowlen's children from assuming management and control of the team, in violation of their fiduciary duties." He seeks the appointment of an independent party.
In a press release, Bill Bowlen accused the three trustees of not following his brother's wishes.
"I am a huge fan of the Broncos, and have been for decades," Bowlen said, per The Athletic. "Unfortunately, over the past 15 years, I've noticed that the operation of the Broncos has deteriorated, while my brother's health has worsened.
"I have real concerns with these trustees, their conduct and how they got to the positions they are in. They have little or no accountability to anybody but themselves. They have not complied with the rules of the NFL and I am uncomfortable with the way they have handled my brother's affairs. I know what his wishes were, and these individuals are definitely not following them."
In response to the motion, the trustees said in a statement that they are reviewing the matter.
"We have not seen this lawsuit and first learned of it through a media report tonight. Although we are currently reviewing this matter, we are aware that the counsel submitting this complaint on behalf of Bill Bowlen is the same one that has been representing Beth Bowlen Wallace," Dan Reilly, the trust's legal counsel and Kelly's husband, said. "The trustees will continue to execute Pat Bowlen's long-standing succession plan for the Denver Broncos in compliance with all NFL ownership policies."
In May, Beth Bowlen, the daughter of Pat Bowlen and ex-wife Sally Parker, announced her desire to take over as controlling owner. In a statement to The Athletic at the time, Bill Bowlen expressed support for Beth Bowlen, saying his brother wanted one of his children run the team and that "Beth is in the best position" to do so. However, According to The Athletic, Ellis indicated that Brittany Bowlen, the daughter of Pat Bowlen and wife Annabel, was the favorite for the position.
As the Broncos, who sit at 3-4 ahead of Sunday's game against the Chiefs, prepare for what looks like a third-straight playoff-less season, their most important and intriguing battle might be occurring away from the field. Not only does general manager John Elway need to solve the team's ongoing quarterback issue -- an issue that somehow got even worse -- but the team also needs to figure out its ownership situation.
By the look of it, it could get ugly.