Hey, Bowlen Kids: Don't Fight Over the Broncos Until Dad's Dead

Pat Bowlen prior to his diagnosis.
Pat Bowlen prior to his diagnosis. Denver7 via YouTube
The original Dynasty has nothing on the Mile High City soap opera starring the children of Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. But daughter Beth Bowlen Wallace's self-nomination as heir apparent to oversee the team doesn't qualify as campy and entertaining; instead, it's unseemly and sad, since her father is being treated like he's dead even though he's not.

Pat Bowlen formally gave up control of the Broncos in 2014, when the family acknowledged something pretty much everyone had known for years: He's suffering from Alzheimer's. But this was just a formality. Way back in 2010, sources told Westword that Pat was no longer involved in day-to-day operations because of his illness.

Alzheimer's is an incredibly cruel disease that's often referred to as a living death. But in this context, the operative word is "living" — as in, Pat still is. But 47-year-old Beth seems in a hurry to bury him.

On May 31, she unleashed a media blitz, speaking about her wish to become the Broncos' boss to Nicki Jhabvala, a former Denver Post reporter who jumped to The Athletic a couple of months ago, in addition to putting out a press release on PR Newswire — which is what all families do when they want to send a message, right?

The latter is larded with quotes like this one: "I love the Denver Broncos. This team has been so special to my family, to the City of Denver and to the state of Colorado. My father's legacy is very important to me and my family. It is my desire to lead this team with the same passion my father did and help the Broncos become Super Bowl champions again. I have the ambition, experience and drive, and my mentor in running a winning NFL franchise is the best in the business — my father."

The release also notes that Beth "has submitted a proposal for a succession plan to the Trustees of the Pat Bowlen family trust that includes Beth taking over as the Controlling Owner after a short transition and mentoring period with current leadership." But those trustees — CEO Joe Ellis, team counsel Rich Slivka and attorney Mary Kelly — responded as if she'd left a burning bag of dog shit on their porch. We've included the statements of the trustees and one from Ellis personally below in their entirety, but they basically suggest that Beth impressed no one during a stint with the team a few years back and was essentially shown the door in 2015 for reasons she was "fully informed" about.

click to enlarge Beth Bowlen Wallace during a 2015 interview. - CBS4
Beth Bowlen Wallace during a 2015 interview.
What did Beth do? Trip Ellis on the team jet? Give Slivka a noogie? Tell John Elway that with choppers like his, he should run in the Kentucky Derby? The remarks are purposefully vague, but they imply enough bad blood to provide several sequels to a certain Taylor Swift song.

Not that the issue of succession is simple. Most observers figured son John Bowlen would eventually be given the keys to the locker room, but that was before he was busted for a 2015 domestic-violence episode involving whippets and booze and a 2017 DUI that established him as even a bigger douchebag celebrity son than Jordan Hancock, son of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

These incidents would seem to exempt John from serious consideration as Pat's successor, since the trust his dad established calls for strong leadership and integrity in addition to a high level of education and five years of senior management experience. But most of Pat's other children fall short by this measure, too. Daughters Annabel, Brittany and Christiana are considered to be too young to have accrued the desired experience level, son Patrick fails to meet the education requirement, and eldest daughter Amie Bowlen Klemmer doesn't seem interested in sweaty dudes with masks over their faces — unless she's into kinky sexual exploits she hasn't publicly acknowledged.

Given that, Beth feels she's the most qualified of her siblings, having graduated from the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law in 2016, and both sister Amie and Pat's brother John support her bid. But the rest of the kids have kept their lips zipped, at least thus far, leaving the trust's blasts at Beth to resonate even more loudly.

The main issue, though, is that no decision can be made about succession until Pat Bohlen is in the ground, and he remains above it as of now. The corpse his kids are battling over is still breathing.

Continue reading for statements from the trust and Joe Ellis.

click to enlarge John Bowlen's 2017 mug shot. - FILE PHOTO
John Bowlen's 2017 mug shot.
File photo
Pat Bowlen Trust statement:

"The statements issued by Beth Bowlen Wallace today are contrary to Pat Bowlen’s long-standing succession plan that he created over many years of careful consideration.

"Pat was determined to ensure the Broncos would remain a premier franchise in the National Football League in the event of his absence. He chose to sustain the team’s success in that eventuality by appointing three non-family trustees to determine whether any of his children had become qualified at some point to step into his shoes.

"Pat did not designate Beth as a trustee or appoint her to a leadership position, nor did he instruct the trustees to specifically mentor her. He made it clear that his children were not automatically entitled to a role with the team and that they would have to earn that opportunity through their accomplishments, qualifications and character.

"As trustees honoring the clear wishes of Pat, we have thoroughly evaluated whether Beth is capable of succeeding her father as controlling owner. We have determined that she is not capable or qualified at this time.

"We have communicated our decision to Beth and her lawyers on multiple occasions. She is also fully informed as to why her employment with the team ended in 2015.

"Although Beth has declined our invitations to discuss her qualifications for the last two years, we will continue to proactively engage and meet with any of the Bowlen children who express a desire to earn the right to succeed their father.

"As trustees, we will continue to honor Pat’s long-standing plan to determine the Broncos’ future ownership and any potential appointment of his children to leadership positions within the organization. Our decisions will always be guided by what will ensure the long-term success and stability of the Broncos while also doing what’s best for our community, our fans and the NFL.

"Consistent with Pat’s long-standing succession plan, our decisions are not to be dictated by the short-term or personal interests of any individual. We will vigorously defend Pat’s plan in responding to these and any statements that are contrary to Pat’s words and intentions."

Joe Ellis statement:

"As a trustee and someone Pat designated to oversee his team, I have an enormous responsibility to carefully administer his succession plan and make decisions in the best interests of the Broncos. We will continue to follow Pat’s blueprint and nobody else’s while keeping our focus as an organization on having a successful season."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts