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Broncos Ownership Equation Altered by New Court Ruling: A Sale is Imminent

The Broncos' ownership situation was just drastically altered, ushering in sweeping changes to come.
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The Denver Broncos got a new general manager this past year,  will have a new head coach for the 2022 season, and may be looking for a new quarterback.

And, now, a hurdle has been cleared to pave the way for new ownership to take over the Broncos.

On Tuesday, 9NEWS' Mike Klis reported that Denver District Judge Shelley I. Gilman ruled that a "right of first refusal" to buy the Broncos, claimed by the trust of former Broncos owner Edgar Kaiser, is no longer valid.

Klis summarized Gilman's ruling:

"The right of first refusal in the March 16, 1984, sales agreement between Kaiser and Bowlen “has terminated in its entirety” and “is no longer valid or enforceable in any respect.”

None of Kaiser’s heirs “have any rights under the right of first refusal” – meaning they are not entitled to any notice of the intended sale of the franchise.

The Broncos have no obligations “to provide notice of any intended sale.”

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The ruling now clears the way for the future ownership of the Broncos — and it appears that the Bowlen family will not be part of that ownership group.

Joe Ellis, who plans to step down as Broncos CEO once the team is sold, released a statement after the announcement of Gilman's ruling:

"We’re glad to put this issue behind us and move closer to transitioning ownership of the Denver Broncos. While our focus at this time is on our head coaching search, we plan to make an announcement regarding ownership shortly after that hire is completed.”

Multiple insiders who cover, or previously covered, the Broncos have said that the Bowlen family could not come to terms on which family member should take over as owner. Brittany Bowlen and Beth Bowlen Wallace, both daughters of the late Pat Bowlen, had both expressed interest in becoming the controlling owner of the club.

Beth joined other Bowlen family members in filing suit against the Pat Bowlen Trust that oversaw the Broncos after Bowlen's death, but that suit was eventually settled.

While one could not have ruled out the Bowlen family being part of team ownership, that did not come to pass. It's been announced that the Broncos will go up for sale.

And according to Broncos insider Woody Paige, there are multiple groups expected to bid, one involving current president of football operations John Elway, and another involving former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

With Bowlen-Kaiser lawsuit over, Broncos Joe Ellis will announce plan for new ownership quickly. According to my sources, six candidates to bid. Peyton Manning and John Elway will be in two different groups. Another Colorado-based group is doing the research for bid.

To be clear, just because Elway or Manning is part of a group does not mean either one would become the majority owner. To be majority owner, a person must have a minimum of 30% ownership stake, and the cost for an NFL team will be in the billions.

Former Broncos reporter, and current Washington Post journalist, Nicki Jhabvala, put this into perspective on Twitter: "30 percent of $4 billion is $1.2 billion."

As ESPN's Jeff Legwold noted, Elway and Manning aren't in a financial position to bring that much money to the table. In other words, don't expect either former Bronco to become majority owner.

Still, if either one gained a presence in the ownership situation, it certainly wouldn't stop speculation that either one could have influence. With Elway, some are certain to ask that, given his time spent in the Broncos front office.

Whoever does emerge as the new owner, though, it's clear we are entering a new era for the Broncos. Fans are staring down the barrel of a new owner, a new head coach, a general manager entering his second year, perhaps even a new quarterback.

It's a lot of change to take in, but it gives Broncos Country plenty of reasons for excitement after six straight years of disappointment in not making the playoffs.

Follow Bob on Twitter @BobMorrisSports.

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