Court victory paves way for Denver Broncos sale

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo .– The Denver Broncos have passed their final legal hurdle to begin the process of transferring ownership of the team, likely through a sale of the franchise valued at nearly $ 4 billion.

Denver County District Court Judge Shelley I. Gilman on Tuesday ruled that a right of first refusal agreement between the late owners Pat Bowlen and Edgar Kaiser “is no longer valid or enforceable in any respect” and “ended in its entirety”.

“We are pleased to put this issue behind us and move closer to the Denver Broncos’ ownership transition,” Team President and CEO Joe Ellis said in a statement. plan to make an announcement regarding the property shortly after this tenancy ends. ”

General manager George Paton has requested permission to speak with a half-dozen candidates to replace Vic Fangio, whom he sacked Sunday morning after Denver’s 7-10 win that gave him a 19-30 record in three seasons.

The Broncos haven’t made the playoffs since winning Super Bowl 50 six years ago and have beaten 10 starting quarterbacks since Peyton Manning retired after that 2015 championship season.

Pat Bowlen passed away in 2019, a month before his induction into the Professional Football Hall of Fame, following a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Several years earlier, he had appointed a three-person trust to determine the future of the franchise.

Two daughters from Bowlen’s first marriage withdrew a lawsuit in July that challenged Bowlen’s will, appearing to pave the way for a sale. Later in the month, Ellis said he hopes the long-standing ownership saga is settled by the start of the 2022 season.

However, the team’s parent companies first had to go to court in September to ask the judge to rule that Kaiser’s estate no longer had the right of first refusal on any potential sale of the franchise, which Forbes was assessing. to $ 3.75 billion.

The lawsuit, which lasted a week, pitted the owner partnership of the Broncos and ROFR Holdings, based in Vancouver. The judge considered arguments from the past two months before delivering her ruling on Tuesday.

“We are very pleased with the court order today ending all rights of first refusal,” said team lawyer Dan Reilly. “The Trustees will continue to move forward with the ownership transition process. “

The lawsuit came in response to a surprise letter from May 2020 that attorneys for PDB Sports Ltd. and Bowlen Sports Inc. have received from ROFR Holdings suggesting that it has the right to match any offer if the team is sold.

The letter stated that Kaiser had transferred his stake in the deal with Pat Bowlen to ROFR Holdings, a company he had formed in 2005. ROFR stands for Right of First Refusal.

PDB Sports and Bowlen Sports responded that the pact of Kaiser’s sale in 1984 of his 60.8% stake in Bowlen was no longer valid because it was a personal pact between the two men that broke down. ended with Kaiser’s death in 2012.

Gilman’s move in favor of the team now makes it easier to either move the team from Pat D. Bowlen Trust to 32-year-old Brittany Bowlen or, more likely, pave the way for the franchise to be sold to an outside buyer. .

The values ​​of the NFL franchise have skyrocketed with new broadcast agreements and the league’s adoption of sports gambling, which is now legal in many states, including Colorado.

The Broncos were expected to pull bids of $ 4 billion or more, which would be a record for an American sports franchise and nearly double what the Carolina Panthers sold three years ago when David Tepper bought that team. for $ 2.275 billion.

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