ENGLEWOOD — The Broncos' pursuit of a new owner continues moving forward to a conclusion, possibly by later this month.
Second-round bids in the auction are due by 3 p.m. Monday, with increased speculation that the favorite Rob Walton will win given his financial wherewithal and the fiduciary duty for the Broncos trust to take the highest offer. A source told Denver7 that second-round bids have not yet been submitted — they will likely come in closer to the deadline — and that no owner has been chosen.
A Forbes report stated Monday that Walton will win the bid at roughly $4.5 billion, crushing the current record paid for an American sports franchise at $3.3 billion for the Brooklyn Nets, which involved real estate. The Panthers own the NFL record, sold for $2.275 billion to David Tepper.
Walton, 77, is tied to the Walmart fortune, making him one of the richest people in the world. Per Forbes, his group includes daughter Carrie and her husband Greg Penner.
A source close to the process expected an announcement this month on the winning bid, which requires approval by NFL owners, leaving the Broncos in position to have a new owner in place when training camp opens in July.
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Walton, while the frontrunner, is not the lone bidder. Josh Harris, the principal owner and managing partner of the NHL's New Jersey Devils and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, is expected to bid. Magic Johnson joined Harris last month, putting a spotlight on Harris given the NFL's desire for minority representation in the Broncos' new ownership group.
Others expected to bid include Matt Ishbia, who has made his billions in the mortgage business, and Jose E. Feliciano, a founder of Clearlake Capital.
Once the offers are in hand, financial adviser Steve Greenberg of Allen & Company and legal adviser Joe Leccese of Proskauer Rose LLP will present the information to the trust of the Pat Bowlen estate. The trust includes CEO Joe Ellis, who will retire after helping with the ownership transition, Rich Slivka and Mary Kelly. The Broncos were placed on the auction block in January when Bowlen's children could not agree on one sibling to operate as the controlling owner.
Forbes valued the Broncos at $3.75 billion in August. However, the winning bid is predicted by financial insiders to exceed $4 billion and might inch closer to $5 billion.
Walton visited the Broncos headquarters recently, meeting with executives. If Walton wins the bid he would become the NFL's richest owner, and almost every Colorado major sports teams would have ties to the Walton family as Stan Kroenke owns the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and Colorado Rapids.