The Denver Broncos are Heading for an Ownership Mess

By Jason Lisk

Yesterday, Beth Bowlen Wallace, one of the seven children of Pat Bowlen, expressed her public desire to be the controlling owner of the Denver Broncos to the Athletic.

"“I know the fans have been anxious and asking quite a few questions about what’s happening with the succession plan of the Denver Broncos,” she said. “I have completed the criteria laid out by the trustees, so I felt it was a good time to come out and express my interest and desire to be a part of the organization again.”"

That prompted a reply from the Pat Bowlen Trust, headed by Joe Ellis, that described Bowlen Wallace as “not capable or qualified at this time.”

It’s helpful to understand the background on this one. Pat Bowlen, the long-time owner of the Broncos, stepped down from his role in the fall of 2013 because of Alzheimer’s and the progression of the disease. At that time, a trust was established, that included three individuals, including Team President/CEO Joe Ellis. Ellis acts as the owner delegee and makes all decisions for the franchise at owner’s meetings and league functions. The Trust was also tasked with handling the longterm succession plan for the team, which would ultimately place one of the seven Bowlen children as Controlling Owner (all would get ownership shares, but only one would be the owner making decisions).

“When a child emerges that has the capability and has earned the right to have that job and take over their father’s chair, the three trustees will determine that,” Ellis said two years ago, “There’s no change in terms of there’s no scoreboard, no leaderboard, we’re not handicapping the children or anything like that at this point.” The Trust had previously sent the Bowlen children a memo outlining what they would need to do to be considered, including having a college degree and an advanced degree (law, MBA) and at least five years of senior management with the NFL, the Denver Broncos, or the Stadium Manage Company.

Beth Bowlen Wallace is 47 years old and one of two children with Pat Bowlen’s first wife. She recently completed getting a law degree to satisfy the requirements from the Trust. The youngest five children are with his second wife, Annabel, and range in age from 20 to 34. One of those, John, was arrested for domestic violence three years ago and would almost certainly be out of consideration. Patrick III is working as a facilities coordinator with Stadium Manage Company, while Brittany, now 28, has just completed her MBA at Duke and has been part of a NFL junior rotational program, but hasn’t satisfied the senior management requirement.

Pat Bowlen’s brother Bill also gave a statement supporting Beth as controlling owner:

Yesterday’s public statements were made because Beth Bowlen is now willing to press the issue. The Trust has said they are not favoring any of the children, but it would seem that Brittany is on track but not there yet. Delaying the process keeps her in contention. It would not be surprising if this went to litigation over whether the Trust is acting in good faith when it comes to evaluating Beth Bowlen Wallace, or whether there is preference for a child from his current wife, Annabel.