Commentary

Who We Really Want to Buy the Broncos

Peyton Manning endearing himself to Emily in Paris fans everywhere this past weekend.
Peyton Manning endearing himself to Emily in Paris fans everywhere this past weekend. NBC via YouTube
The timing would never have been good for the Denver Broncos to be named in a racial-bias lawsuit alleging that John Elway was disheveled and hungover when he took part in a so-called "sham interview" with former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, the man behind the complaint. But that claim stole much of the thunder from the long-anticipated announcement that the team is officially for sale.

Estimates for the sale amount that could be collected by the Pat Bowlen Trust, set up by the late owner of the team whose death from Alzheimer's complications triggered an ugly family battle for control, tend to begin at around $4 billion, but the ultimate price could easily go higher than that.

And who's going to to win the bidding war? Many mega-rich folks have been the focus of speculation. Here are their pros and cons, capped by our top pick for the new owner — an impossible dream, in all likelihood, but a beautiful one nonetheless.

Jeff Bezos

The man behind Amazon, Bezos has been on record since October as not being interested in buying the Broncos, and given all of those negative reports about how employees at his company are treated, that' may not be a bad thing. Then again, his resources — Forbes estimates Bezos's net worth as of today, February 2, at $177.2 billion — are unparalleled, and getting him to change his mind could be as easy as leaking the news that space rival Richard Branson has been poking around. Bet his wallet would open up mighty fast after that.

Jay-Z

The hip-hop icon isn't nearly monied enough to buy the Broncos on his own; Forbes says he's "only" worth around $1.3 billion today, putting him at number 2,141 on the mag's roster of the richest. He'd definitely need to round up some big-bucks pals to help him cover the nut. But on the positive side, Denver's in-stadium music selections would get an immediate hipness upgrade, and Jay-Z's collection of classic songs could easily be adapted for football. How about "99 Problems and Drew Lock Ain't One"?

Robert F. Smith

Smith, whose Vista Equity Partners Firm is largely responsible for a bankroll estimated by Forbes at $6.7 billion, is supposedly no longer planning on bidding for the Broncos, either. But while he's had a rather unfortunate run-in with the tax man (he paid a $139 million settlement to federal authorities a while back), he definitely has attributes in his favor. For one thing, he's originally from Denver and owns property here, although Forbes identifies his primary residence as Austin, Texas. For another, he's Black, suggesting that if Brian Flores was to get an interview for a head coaching position in the future, it wouldn't be a sham.

Peyton Manning and Netflix

Manning is a virtual pauper compared to other leading candidates; the Celebrity Net Worth website puts his current stockpile of greenbacks at $250 million. But there are plenty of possible partners who would love to have him join their team. We suggest Netflix, which definitely owes Manning a debt of gratitude after his appearance on Saturday Night Live this past weekend; in it, he hilariously claimed that he hadn't watched the previous batch of playoff games because he'd been binging Emily in Paris. If you haven't seen it yet, enjoy.
John Elway and the Alcohol Industry

Many fans don't want Elway anywhere near Broncos ownership, and given the squad's terrible performance since winning Super Bowl 50, that's understandable. Still, Flores's allegation that Elway must have been drinking heavily prior to his interview (which the Broncos vigorously deny on Elway's behalf) presents opportunity for spinning the narrative. When life gives you lemons, make Mike's Hard Lemonade.

The Colorado Billionaire's Club

As of last April, Colorado had ten billionaires, according to Forbes's figures, and while none of them are what you might call Bezos-rich, they could come up with somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 billion between them — more than enough to make noise in a bidding war for the Broncos. But since several are comparative recluses (Phil Anschutz owns newspapers but doesn't grant interviews, and cheese magnate James Leprino doesn't even have a photo online), they don't seem to have a hankering for the spotlight that NFL ownership requires.

The People of Colorado

This is who we'd really like to own the Broncos — and there's a precedent for the concept. Note that the Green Bay Packers, previous employer of new Denver head coach Nathaniel Hackett, are publicly owned, with fans able to purchase shares; in 2021, they were selling for around $300 a pop. Sure, there are some very wealthy folks out there. But why not us?

Here's the Broncos' official statement on the sale, tweeted yesterday.
This post has been updated to include the Broncos' official statement about the sale.
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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