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Denver Broncos sale seemingly imminent, impact will be wide-ranging

Vincent Frank

As the Denver Broncos move forward following another non-playoff season, their focus will be on finding a head coach to replace the recently-fired Vic Fangio.

However, there’s another much larger story brewing from Mile High City a few days after the Broncos’ 2021 campaign came to a conclusion.

A judge overseeing the case pitting Denver’s current ownership trust against an entity claiming right of first refusal over a potential sale has ruled in favor of the organization.

The case stems from an agreement that was made by late Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen back in 1984 that gave an outside group the right of first refusal when it comes to purchasing the NFL organization.

In her ruling on Tuesday, Denver District Court Judge Shelley Gilman sided with the organization — throwing out the aforementioned agreement in the process.

“The right of first refusal is no longer valid or enforceable in any respect,” the order read.

Long story short (and without getting into legal mumbo-jumbo), this ends any restrictions the Broncos’ current powers that be had as it relates to a potential sale.

Remember, it was back in December of last year that Denver’s brass had been meeting with individuals in an attempt to transfer control of the organization from the trustees of the Patrick D. Bowlen Trust to an outside entity. The expectation now is that something will get done this coming summer with NFL owners having to agree on the sale.

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Denver Broncos pending sale and impact on the head coach search

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

This is potentially significant given that Denver has already started it search for a new head coach. A lot of it depends on who might be interested in buying the NFL franchise and any potential hands-on approach.

Current owners such as Shahid Khan (Jacksonville Jaguars), Stephen Ross (Miami Dolphins) and Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys) pretty much make up the decision-making process when it comes to head-coach hirings. Others take a hands-off approach.

In reality, candidates might now be taken aback by this development. For example, former Broncos great Peyton Manning has shown interest in buying a share of the organization. While he wouldn’t be controlling owner, any group headed by Manning that potentially wins the bidding would change the landscape big time.

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Denver Broncos team value and potential sale price

In their latest annual reporting, Forbes has the Broncos valued at $3.75 billion — the 10th-largest figure in the NFL. Obviously, any potential sale would top $4 billion.

That’s an eye-opening figure given that the Carolina Panthers sold for an NFL-record $2.2 billion to David Tepper back in 2018. The highest amount paid for a major professional sports team in North America was $2.3 billion back in 2017 when Joseph Tsai purchased the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

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Jeff Bezos to buy the Denver Broncos?

There’s a limited number of billionaires who have shown interest in owning a sports franchise. That list has to start with former Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, who is the richest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $202 billion. Bezos has shown interest in acquiring a franchise in the past. While reports last fall indicated he was not interested in the Broncos, expect things to heat up again on this front.

The trustees had previously targeted Pat Bowlen’s daughter, Brittany, as a potential next controlling owner. She’s part of the three-member trust that won in court on Tuesday. It’s unclear whether Brittany has any interest in taking over that role.

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In addition to this, a group headed by the aforementioned Manning could make a ton of sense. Perhaps (and this is just speculation), he gets some money behind a bid. That could include someone like Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison who previously displayed interest in buying the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and NBA’s Golden State Warriors.

Either way, this is a monumental day for the Denver Broncos’ organization and will have wide-ranging ramifications for a team that has not played playoff football since Manning himself suited up all the way back in 2015.

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