ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Waltons, heirs to the Walmart fortune and America’s wealthiest family, have won the bid to buy the Denver Broncos in the most expensive for a sports franchise in the world.
The Broncos announced Tuesday night that they have reached a sale agreement with the Walton-Penner ownership group led by Rob Walton, his daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and her husband, Greg Penner.
Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but KUSA-TV in Denver said it was for $4.65 billion.
The price tag far exceeds last month’s $3.1 billion sale of Chelsea, one of European soccer’s blue ribbon teams, to a US-led consortium headed by the Los Dodgers co-owner Angeles, Todd Boehly.
Boehly was reportedly among the investors with one of five finalists who were asked to make offers for the Broncos before Monday’s deadline.
The deal for the Walmart-Penner Group to buy the franchise from the Pat Bowlen Trust has to be approved by the NFL, but it’s considered a formality.
“As this purchase and sale agreement awaits approval from the NFL Finance and League Ownership Committee, today marks an important milestone on the path to an exciting new chapter in history. Broncos,” team president and CEO Joe Ellis said in a statement.
“I enjoyed getting to know Rob Walton, Carrie Walton Penner and Greg Penner through this process,” Ellis said. “As we learn more about their journey and their vision for the Denver Broncos, I’m confident their leadership and support will help this team achieve great things on and off the field.”
Rob Walton said in a statement, “We are thrilled to have been selected to move forward with the purchase of the Denver Broncos! Carrie, Greg and I are inspired by the opportunity to lead this great organization into a vibrant community full of opportunity and passionate fans.
“Having lived and worked in Colorado, we’ve always looked up to the Broncos. Our excitement has only grown as we have learned more about the Broncos team, staff and country over the past few months,” added Walton.
Walton said Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments and president of Starbucks, has agreed to join the ownership group.
Hobson is black. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has made minority ownership a point of attention in the league.
“Mellody is currently chair of the board of Starbucks Corporation and is also a director of JPMorgan Chase. We know she will bring her strategic acumen and leadership perspective to our team,” said Walton.
“We look forward to earning the trust and support of the NFL as we take the next step in this process. When the necessary approval procedures are completed, our family is excited to share more with Broncos fans, the organization and the community.
Walton, 77, was chairman of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, from 1992 until 2015 when he retired. He is the eldest son of founder Sam Walton and Helen Walton and has an estimated net worth of nearly $60 billion.
First-year coach Nathaniel Hackett balked when asked during offseason practices Monday if he went through the sale process.
“My job is to prepare the team, teach the systems and teach them how to come together as a team and improve them at football,” Hackett said. “I know it’s obviously a huge, huge deal. But for us it’s all about winning regardless of who owns the team, so I’m excited.
After an initial round of bidding, five finalists were invited to tour team facilities and dig deeper into the franchise’s finances. Hackett said he met most of the billionaire bidders.
“After speaking with everyone, I think they all have incredible passion and want to be in this league, and they want to be part of a team – and I think that’s something really beautiful.” , said Hackett.
“They want to come to win and they want to do something big here. And so wherever it is, I think we’re going to be very grateful.
The Pat Bowlen Trust has run the franchise for several years and last year put the club up for sale after Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen’s children could not agree on a successor to their father.
Bowlen died in 2019, a month before his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.