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Judge's ruling clears hurdle for potential sale of Denver Broncos

 'Broncos Stadium at Mile High'
Posted at 4:06 PM, Jan 11, 2022

DENVER – A Denver District Court judge’s ruling Tuesday in the ongoing Broncos ownership court battle cleared one of the final hurdles for the potential sale of the team to new owners.

Judge Shelley Gilman ruled that a right of first refusal between Edgar Kaiser Jr. and Pat Bowlen – the late past owners – was “no longer valid or enforceable” and “terminated in its entirety.”

Attorneys for Kaiser’s heirs had argued that they should be able to match an offer should the Broncos be put up for sale. The trust that runs the Broncos had challenged the Kaiser group’s claims.

The right of first refusal trial was not preventing a sale. But it removed any potential issue. Now the runway is clear to pursue an ownership transition through auction bids. There will be multiple bidders, per sources. A sale is the path forward because the seven siblings cannot agree on a lone, controlling voice and no sibling was groomed and ready to take over.

Two other of Bowlen’s daughters from his first marriage had a lawsuit dismissed in July over the late Bowlen’s will, in which they had argued that Bowlen was not aware of what was contained in the documents he was signing that made amendments to the trust, established in 2009, which determined who would succeed him should he die or become incapacitated.

Joe Ellis, the CEO and president of the Broncos and part of the trust, said after that initial lawsuit was dismissed in July that he would talk about an ownership transition after the season.

He said in a news conference on Sunday he was waiting for the judge’s decision on the right-of-refusal case before commenting further.

On Tuesday, Ellis said he was happy for the judge's ruling so the ownership transition could move forward.

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

Dan Reilly, the lead counsel for the trust’s side, said he was pleased by the judge’s order.

“We are very pleased with the Court’s order today terminating any right of first refusal,” he said in a statement. “The Trustees will continue moving forward with the ownership transition process.”

The Broncos could draw bids of $4 billion or more, and several high-profile names have been discussed regarding ownership groups. Former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said in late October he hadn’t had “any serious conversations with anyone.”

“Even if I am offered an opportunity, I haven’t decided if I would even do it,” he said at the time.

But he is expected to be part of a group that bids. And John Elway could be part of a separate group. In auction, it will not be a popularity contest, but about the highest bid.

This is a developing news story and will be updated.