On Tuesday, Denver Broncos CEO and president Joe Ellis held an end-of-season press conference and answered questions about John Elway’s promotion, the team's sudden GM Vacancy, and the ongoing ownership dispute.
Ellis stated that Elway wouldn’t “meddle,” in the business of the new general manager. Ellis also said that the ongoing lawsuit between Pat Bowlen’s oldest daughters against the Bowlen Trust must play out before an ownership transition can be executed — whether by keeping it within the family or selling to an outside bidder.
“I don’t envision extending it past that other than maybe just an interim period of some sort if necessary,” Ellis told Klis in an exclusive interview.
Ellis went on to provide a caveat or two, or three.
“But that would be dedicated to finding a replacement as a club president or CEO, depending on what the next owner – whether that’s Brittany or somebody else -- where that ends up," Ellis told Klis. "I think it’s important for the organization -- I don’t think CEOs should last forever. You look across businesses across the country, they don’t last forever, they need to move on. They’re asked to move on. And it will be time for me to move on, and how that transfer passes, I can’t predict right now. But there will be a transfer of authority at that level. I can assure you of that.”
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Ellis’ announcement comes just days after Elway announced that he has accepted an ‘elevated’ role in the team’s front office. The three-person Bowlen Trust is comprised of Ellis, team counsel Rich Slivka, and Denver attorney Mary Kelly. The late Pat Bowlen stated his wish to have one of his children succeed him in team ownership as the controlling owner, but only if the trust deems a descendant qualified.
Bowlen purchased the Broncos in 1984 and would become one of the most successful NFL owners of all-time. He is considered a pioneer in many respects, including his impact on the league's proliferation through TV deals.
With Alzheimer's Disease increasingly taking its toll on Bowlen, the Broncos' late owner created a trust in hopes that one of his seven children would succeed him as the team’s sole owner. The suitors for that sole ownership role include Beth Bowlen Wallace and Amie Klemmer, Bowlen's two oldest daughters from his first marriage to Sally Parker, along with the five children with his widow Annabelle — Patrick, Johnny, Brittany, Annabel, and Christianna.
In the spring of 2018, Bowlen Wallace announced that she intended to succeed her father as owner. However, the trustees of Pat Bowlen’s estate issued a harsh response stating she was, “not capable or qualified.”
Bowlen Wallace and Klemmer have petitioned the court to remove the trustees from their father’s trust on the grounds that he lacked the mental capacity required to make the amendment to the trust that he did in 2009.
That same year, in the fall, then 28-year-old Brittany Bowlen announced she intended on becoming the controlling owner. Since then, she was hired by the team in 2020 and was credited with spearheading the Broncos' COVID-19 protocols to meet the high demand and standards of the league front office.
The lawsuit brought by Bowlen Wallace and Klemmer was postponed from September of last year in Arapahoe Country Court to July 12, 2021, due to the pandemic.
Last November, the league issued a statement that any team that doesn’t have one person holding the final say in ownership is subject to fines with a maximum of $10 million per year. The Broncos are the only franchise in the NFL that is currently not in compliance with ownership rules with a sole source of accountability.
All signs point to new ownership eventually. For now, the Broncos' future is still in question.
Two things are for sure, though; all signs point to Ellis and Elway exiting Dove Valley in the spring of 2022.