February 11, 2022 | SPORTS | By Ben Hayes-Lemmon | Illustration by Anil Jergens

Pat Bowlen and his family owned the Broncos for 38 years. Now, the team is officially up for sale. They’re being sold for the first time since 1984, when Bowlen purchased the team for $78 million.

Bowlen’s ownership led to spectacular results. The Broncos had 21 winning seasons, 13 AFC West Titles, seven AFC Championships, and three Super Bowl victories in those 38 years.

Bowlen passed away in 2019, and a trust under his name continued to maintain ownership through the end of the 2021 season. His wife, Annabel, was integral to keeping the organization running smoothly following his passing.

In a statement following the announcement of the sale, the Bowlen family said that “with today beginning the Broncos’ transition to new ownership, our family is overwhelmed with gratitude for what this organization and community have meant to us.”

Bowlen was a well-respected owner by many Broncos fans. He was extraordinary owner by any measure. It is well-known that Bowlen loved the players dearly and his memory will live on within the hearts, minds, and memories of the fans.

Although Bowlen purchased the Broncos for just $78 million, Forbes magazine recently valued the organization at approximately $3.75 billion, meaning the franchise has the potential to sell for north of $4 billion.

Selling an NFL team is a multifaceted process involving league approval as well as involvement from numerous other parties, yet current Denver leadership is hopeful that the entire process will be complete by the beginning of the 2022 season.

The most expensive team sale in the history of sports is currently the $3.3 billion purchase of the Brooklyn Nets by Joe Tsai. With a price tag expected to hit over $4 billion, the Broncos appear to be on track to break that record. While no parties have officially released a statement confirming the possibility of purchasing the Broncos so far, there are rumors around possible owners, with names like Peyton Manning and Jeff Bezos floating around.

The sale of the Broncos also has the potential to break the record for the biggest tax write-off for a team owner. Based on the current tax code, the write-off for the purchase of the Broncos is likely to exceed $3 billion.

Through a process called amortization, the owner of a business can write-off intangible assets over a certain period of time. However, a football team is nearly entirely intangible assets, as much of its value is in contracts and media rights. The idea is that the write-off will cover the tax burden that the team will produce over the next period of ownership.

The story of new ownership in Denver is sure to develop further over the next few months. Joe Ellis, the current President of the Broncos, states that “the Broncos are a special franchise that is part of the fabric of this region, and whoever emerges as the new owner will certainly understand what the team means to our great fans and this community.” 

With Bowlen’s shoes to fill, there are high expectations for the next owner. Broncos fans across the country will be paying attention as the biggest transaction in sports history continues to unfold.

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