Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is relinquishing control of the team after acknowledging he is dealing with Alzheimer's disease, reports the Denver Post.
Team president Joe Ellis, who will also add the title of CEO, assumes control of the team while Bowlen, 70, focuses on his health. Ellis has the final say on all team decisions.
"It's a really, really sad day," Ellis said. "It's sad for his family, his wife and his seven children. It's sad for everyone in the organization. And it's sad for all the Bronco fans who know what Pat Bowlen meant to them as an owner. It's a day nobody wanted to see happen."
In Bowlen’s 30 years as the Broncos owner, the team made six Super Bowl appearances and won two championships, in 1997 and 1998. Those Super Bowl-winning teams were led by Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, who is now the team's general manager and executive vice president of football operations.
Bowlen bought the team in 1984 for $78 million. According to Forbes, the team's value today is $1.16 billion.
Bowlen told the newspaper in 2009 that he was experiencing short-term memory loss, and his family acknowledged for the first time that his condition has developed into Alzheimer's.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million people in the United States live with the disease and it kills more than 500,000 each year. It's the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.
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The Broncos will not be sold, as Bowlen wants one of his seven children to run the team one day.
"This is a sad day for the NFL," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "Pat Bowlen's leadership has been critical to the success of the Broncos and the entire NFL. From building a championship team that is a pillar of the community to his important work for the league on television and labor matters, Pat's love of the game drove him and we have all benefited from his passion and wisdom. But the time has come for Pat to focus on his health and we fully support him. Joe Ellis has been a trusted executive for Pat for many years after working with us at the league office. Joe's deep experience ensures that the Broncos will continue to have strong leadership."
- Scooby Axson