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NFL owners unanimously approve sale of Broncos to Walton-Penner group

Greg Penner, left, Carrie Walton Penner and Rob Walton lead the group that purchased the Denver Broncos. On Tuesday, NFL owners voted to ratify their $4.65 billion purchase of the team. (Dave Campbell/AP)
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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The NFL has a new wealthiest team owner, and the Denver Broncos have new leadership.

Meeting Tuesday at a hotel by the Mall of America, NFL owners voted to ratify the $4.65 billion purchase of the Broncos by a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton from the Pat Bowlen Trust. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Walton’s ownership group received “unanimous support” from the other owners.

Applause could be heard in the owners’ meeting room shortly before the approval was announced.

Group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton agrees to buy Broncos for $4.65 billion

Walton called it “a big, big day for us” and said at a news conference: “Putting a winning team on the field is our number one priority. We can’t wait to get to Denver, join our new colleagues and get to work.”

Walton, 77, has a net worth of $59.9 billion, according to Forbes, and is among the world’s 20 wealthiest people. Approval by the owners had been considered a mere formality since the deal was struck in early June. The owners on the NFL’s finance committee previously recommended ratification.

“This is a group that is going to be great for the Denver community, [with] their commitment to winning but more importantly their commitment to making sure the Broncos franchise is an important part of the Denver community,” Goodell said. “So we’re thrilled about that.”

The Broncos’ new ownership group includes Walton’s daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and his son-in-law, Gregory Penner, who was elected chairman of Walmart’s board of directors in 2015.

“We’re committed to making sure the Denver Broncos are the best team to play for, to work for and to cheer for,” Walton Penner said. “We can’t wait to get back tomorrow and get this started.”

Said Rob Walton: “Working together as a family is going to be great fun on this project. It’s a good business, but it’s a fun business, and we’re going to enjoy it. Mostly, we’re just honored to steward this historic franchise. We appreciate the opportunity.”

Walton called the Broncos “the one sports franchise that we would have considered buying” and recalled family conversations about the topic a decade ago. Penner said those conversations never advanced to discussing a possible purchase with Bowlen.

“We know our fans’ expectations are high,” Penner said. “And we embrace that. We’re really anxious to get started. And we want to compete, and we want to win.”

Condoleezza Rice joins Broncos’ new ownership group

Penner called it “premature” to address the topic of a potential new stadium for the team, adding, “We’ll evaluate all of our options and really dig in and understand the situation before making any decision.”

Investors in the group include two Black women: Mellody Hobson, the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, and Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state.

“We think diverse organizations are more successful organizations,” Walton said.

The new owners inherit a team with a winning history, a devoted fan base and a recent history of on-field frustration. The Broncos have failed to reach the playoffs in six straight seasons since winning the Super Bowl to conclude the 2015 season. This offseason, they hired a new coach, Nathaniel Hackett, and traded for Russell Wilson, the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.

“They’ll have to perform,” Walton said. “But we think we’ve got the pieces to really fit together and have a great season.”

Goodell said the owners spoke during Tuesday’s meeting about Bowlen, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who died in 2019.

“He made extraordinary contributions to the league,” Goodell said. “Many of us talked about it in the room. He’s not just a Hall of Famer. But he was a friend and someone who cared deeply about the league, the Broncos, the Denver community. We’re going to miss him along the way, and his family. But we want to thank them for all that they’ve done for the National Football League. They’ve been extraordinary partners.”