Owning an NFL team may be the best investment a person can make.
The Walton-Penner family’s deal to purchase the Denver Broncos, which was announced Tuesday night, is proof of that. NFL.com announced the group, which is led by Walmart heir Rob Walton, his daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and her husband, Greg Penner, will pay $4.65 billion to own the Broncos.
Pat Bowlen, the previous owner, bought the Broncos for $78 million in 1984.
If the deal is approved, it would set a record for the highest sale price for an American sports franchise, breaking the record of $2.4 billion paid for the New York Mets in 2020. The Brooklyn Nets were sold for $2.35 billion in 2019, as CBS Sports noted.
The network said the previous record amount paid for an NFL franchise was the $2.275 billion David Tepper spent for the Carolina Panthers. The record sale price for any sports franchise is $5.3 billion for the Chelsea soccer club. That deal was completed last month.
“We are thrilled to be selected to move forward with the purchase of the Denver Broncos!” Rob Walton said in a statement on the league’s website. “Carrie, Greg and I are inspired by the opportunity to steward this great organization in a vibrant community full of opportunity and passionate fans.”
One person who is probably not thrilled: former Broncos star John Elway.
According to the Action Network’s Darren Rovell, Elway was once offered a minority ownership stake in the Broncos while he was still playing.
Here is an excerpt from Rovell’s story: “In September 1998, then Broncos owner Pat Bowlen offered Elway, who had just led the Broncos to their first Super Bowl title, a 10 percent piece of the team for the money that they had owed him ($21 million). Bowlen sweetened the deal by offering another 10 percent of the team for $15 million. …
“At the $4.5 billion valuation, John Elway’s 20 percent stake that he could have gotten for $36 million would have been worth $900 million today, a 1,330 percent return, factoring for inflation. He also gave up the rights of first refusal to buy the rest of the team.”
It’s actually a bit more than that because 20% of $4.65 billion is $930 million.
Despite passing on the ownership stake, Elway made $45.4 million in his playing career, became general manager of the Broncos and they won Super Bowl 50. Elway also sold his car dealerships in 1997 for $82.5 million in stocks.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter said approval of the Broncos deal should take between 60 and 90 days, and “no issues are expected.” That means the new owners should take over in time for the 2022 NFL season.
Top 5 franchise sale prices
Chelsea soccer team, $5.3 billion
Denver Broncos, $4.65 billion
New York Mets, $2.4 billion
Brooklyn Nets, $2.35 billion
Carolina Panthers, $2.275 billion