The Walton family has won the bidding to purchase the Denver Broncos in the most expensive deal for a sports franchise anywhere in the world.
The Broncos announced late Tuesday night they had entered into a sale agreement with the Walton-Penner ownership group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton, his daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and her husband, Greg Penner.
Mellody Hobson, CEO of Ariel Investments and chair of the board of Starbucks Corporation, is also a part of what will be the team’s ownership group.
Hobson is Black. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has made minority ownership a point of emphasis in the league.
“Having lived and worked in Colorado, we’ve always admired the Broncos,” Rob Walton, who was the chairman of Walmart from 1992 to 2015, said in a written statement. “When the necessary approval procedures are met, our family is excited to share more with Broncos fans, the organization and the community.”
The purchase price was expected to be about $4.5 billion, which would be the most expensive deal in sports history. It would surpass the $3.1 billion sale last month of Chelsea F.C., one of European soccer’s blue ribbon teams, to an American-led consortium fronted by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly.
The Pat Bowlen Trust will have to accept the winning Broncos bid, and NFL owners will need to approve the sale, likely in July, of the team that’s been in the Bowlen family for nearly four decades. The NFL’s approval is considered a formality.
The Pat Bowlen Trust has run the franchise for several years and last year put the club up for sale after Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen’s children couldn’t concur on a successor to their father.
Bowlen died in 2019 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, a month shy of his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Joe Ellis, the Broncos president and CEO, said the purchase agreements “marks a significant step on the path to an exciting new chapter in Broncos history.”
The Waltons are already active in Colorado’s civic sphere.
First-year coach Nathaniel Hackett demurred when asked Monday during offseason workouts if he’s kept up with the sale process.
“My job is to get the team ready and teach systems and teach them to come together as a team and get them better at football,” Hackett said. “I know that’s obviously a huge, huge deal. But for us it’s about winning no matter who is going to own the team, so I’m excited.”
After a first round of bids, five finalists were invited to tour the team’s facilities and take a deeper dive into the franchise’s finances. Hackett said he met with most of the billionaire bidders.
“After talking with everybody, I think they all have an amazing passion and want to be part of this league, and they want to be part of a team — and I think that’s something that’s really beautiful,” Hackett said.
“They want to come to win, and they want to do something great here. And so wherever it is, I think we’re going to be very grateful.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.