Walmart heir S. Robson Walton has reportedly submitted a winning bid to purchase the Denver Broncos, a deal that will likely be the most expensive deal in sports history.
According to a report from Forbes, Walton was expected to submit a bid worth $4.5 billion to buy the team Monday, as part of an ownership group that includes his daughter Carrie Penner and his son-in-law Greg Penner. If the deal is completed, it would be the most expensive acquisition of a sports team in history, by a wide margin, and would be more than double the largest acquisition of an NFL team in the league’s history. The Broncos were valued at $3.75 billion in August, Forbes noted.
Four ownership groups were expected to make second-round bids to buy the team by 3 P.M. MDT Monday afternoon. According to the Denver Post, those groups include: Walton’s group; a group headed by Josh Harris, a venture capitalist who owns the New Jersey Devils and co-owns the Philadelphia 76ers, and is a general partner of the English soccer team Crystal Palace FC; a group led by Mat Ishbia, a former Michigan State basketball star who is president and CEO of a mortgage lending firm called United Wholesale Mortgage; and a group headed by Jose E. Feliciano and Behdad Eghbali, co-owners of the VC firm Clearlake Capital. But Forbes notes that none of the other bidders come even close to Walton’s wealth; according to a Forbes estimate, Walton’s net worth sits at around $59.1 billion, making him the 19th richest man in the world.
The deal is not yet official, NFL insiders note. ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Monday that the auction process for the team continued, and that no favorite has emerged. “Second-round bids to buy the Denver Broncos are due later today as the process continues to move along, per league sources. One source maintained today that, despite any speculation, no favorite has emerged at this time,” Schefter wrote on Twitter. But KOA news radio host and Broncos insider Benjamin Allbright noted that, while the deal is not done yet, Walton’s bid was always the expectation.
The final decision will be made by Broncos team President and CEO Joe Ellis, team lawyer Rich Slivka, and several attorneys, the Denver Post reported. Once the second round of bidding is complete, a new owner could be announced outright, or the top two groups would move to a third round of bidding. Once the winning bid is selected, it must be approved by the NFL’s finance committee, then by at least 24 of 32 NFL owners.
The $4.5 billion price tag would be the largest purchase of a sports team in history. It would easily surpass the previous record buyout, set in 2019 when Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets for around $3.5 billion, according to ESPN. It would also surpass the purchase of Chelsea FC last month, after owner Roman Abramovitch was forced to sell the team due to sanctions imposed by the United Kingdom after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And it would be more than double the previous record for an NFL team, set in 2018 when David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers for about $2.2 billion.
Previous owner Pat Bowlen bought the Broncos in 1984. During that time, the Broncos won 13 divisional titles, 7 AFC Championships, and 3 Super Bowls. Bowlen turned control of the team over to Ellis in 2014 after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Bowlen died in 2019. The Broncos were put up for auction on February 1, after a prolonged court battle between Bowlen’s family trust and the team.