The Denver Broncos have been in a state of limbo since late owner Pat Bowlen passed away in June of 2019. With no living owner to lead the club, the Broncos have been managed by the Pat Bowlen Trust, which includes team CEO Joe Ellis among two others: Vice President and General Counsel Rich Slivka and lawyer Mary Kelly.
It was Bowlen's wish, as stipulated in the Trust, that the Broncos remain in his family to be operated by his children, with the objective, ostensibly, to have one, through a painstaking process of qualification, take the ownership lead as the point-man or woman. That's where, unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse.
Pat's children haven't been able to unanimously get behind one of the Bowlens being asserted as that face of the franchise. The Trust, as led by Ellis, long ago tapped Brittany Bowlen, who has served as the Broncos V.P. of Strategic Initiatives over the past couple years.
Meanwhile, Pat's two daughters from his first marriage — Beth Bowlen Wallace and Aimee Klemmer — have publicly questioned the Trust's control over the team's ownership succession and have asserted through litigation that the Trust itself was executed while their father suffered from the ravages of Alzheimer's Disease, and thus, should be dissolved.
Pat's two oldest daughters sued the Trust and that suit was set to go to trial on July 12 in Arapahoe County District Court. However, a new development has occurred that could hint at a settlement being reached between Bowlen Wallace and Klemmer and the Trust.
According to The Denver Post's Ryan O'Halloran, the trial has been stayed by judge John E. Scipione and vacated.
In a brief provided to The Denver Post on Tuesday night, Scipione signed a “joint motion to stay proceedings and vacate trial.”
Scipione granted the motion before lead attorneys Dan Reilly (trustees) and Giovanni Ruscitti (Bowlen sisters).
What does this mean? The best guess is the sides are on the cusp of a settlement or have already reached an agreement.
What it Means
If the two sides are indeed "on the cusp" of a settlement, the resolution of such an accord could either mean the Broncos are to be sold to a new owner, or, and much less likely, Pat's two oldest daughters could be falling in line to throw support behind Brittany Bowlen, keeping the club in the family.
The feeling, however — and especially after Bowlen Wallace's statement to Troy Renck of Denver7 last December wherein she lamented the team's recent losing streak and asserted her desire for a "transition of ownership of the Denver Broncos" — is that any settlement between these two parties implies a future sale of the team.
“We are hopeful that the current leadership agrees that this is in the best interests of the Denver Broncos and most importantly, it is in the best interests of our incredibly loyal fans, my father’s legacy and the Bowlen family,” Bowlen Wallace's statement concluded.
According to Denver-area estate attorney and partner at Gendelman-Klimas law firm, the NFL could be exacting pressure on the two sides to settle and find a resolution outside of public scrutiny, even if it means selling the Broncos. The NFL has exercised exceeding patience throughout the Broncos' dearth of ownership and the Bowlen family's drama.
“With a high value, high profile case like this, there (could be) that pressure from the NFL to the trustees to settle the claims out of court so nobody knows the internal workings of the ownership or the team,” Klimas told The Denver Post. “And two weeks from the start of the trial, that pressure could have been building.”
Time will tell exactly how this resolves but after the trial got pushed back nearly a year due to the pandemic, it feels like this odyssey is nearing its end. Broncos fans should prepare for the possibility of the team being sold to a new owner in the not-too-distant future, as Ellis himself said back in January that he doesn't foresee himself still being the team's top executive by the spring of 2022.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!