Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has Alzheimer’s disease, relinquishes control of team


(1998 Reuters photo)

Pat Bowlen, who has overseen six Super Bowl appearances and two titles as the owner of the Denver Broncos, is relinquishing control of the team after acknowledging that he is dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. Bowlen has placed the team’s ownership in a trust that is controlled by non-family members, the Denver Post reports, with a goal of having one of his seven children run the team when they’re ready.

Team president Joe Ellis, Bowlen’s longtime right-hand man, will have final say on team matters in Bowlen’s stead. He will become the team’s chief executive officer, a title previously held by Bowlen. Former Broncos quarterback John Elway will continue to run the team’s football operations department.

Bowlen, 70, has owned the Broncos since 1984 and is tied with the San Diego Chargers’ Alex Spanos as the NFL’s fourth-longest-tenured owner. In 2009, Bowlen admitted to the Denver Post’s Woody Paige that he was experiencing “short-term memory loss.” In 2010, Westworld reported that Bowlen was “no longer the team’s major decision maker on key subjects.” Tuesday’s revelation was the first time that Bowlen, his family and the team acknowledged that he has Alzheimer’s.

“It’s a really, really sad day,” Ellis said, according to the Denver Post. “It’s sad for his family, his wife and his seven children. It’s sad for everyone in the organization. And it’s sad for all the Bronco fans who know what Pat Bowlen meant to them as an owner. It’s a day nobody wanted to see happen.”

Annabel Bowlen, Pat Bowlen’s wife, released a statement:

“As many in the Denver community and around the National Football League have speculated, my husband, Pat, has very bravely and quietly battled Alzheimer’s disease for the last few years,” Annabel Bowlen said in a statement. “He has elected to keep his condition private because he has strongly believed, and often said, ‘It’s not about me.’

“Pat has always wanted the focus to be solely on the Denver Broncos and the great fans who have supported this team with such passion during his 30 years as owner. My family is deeply saddened that Pat’s health no longer allows him to oversee the Broncos, which has led to this public acknowledgment of such a personal health condition.”

Said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, “This is a sad day for the NFL.”

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