Sports

Inside Vote to Approve Rob Walton as New Broncos Owner, King of Denver

S. Robson "Rob" Walton's official Walmart portrait.
S. Robson "Rob" Walton's official Walmart portrait. walmart.com
Update: At around 11:40 a.m. Denver time, the sale of the Denver Broncos to the Walton Penner group was officially approved by NFL owners. Continue for our earlier coverage.

Today, August 9, National Football League owners are scheduled to formally vote on the $4.65 billion bid for the Denver Broncos submitted by the Walton Penner group, led by Walmart heir Rob Walton along with his daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and his son-in-law, Walmart chair Greg Penner. And there's as much suspense about the outcome as there was over whether Tom Cruise's Maverick would still be alive at the end of this summer's Top Gun reboot.

The deal only needs 24 votes from the 32 current NFL owners during league meetings taking place in Minnesota. And while one owner is expected to be absent — the Miami Dolphins' Stephen Ross, who's been suspended through game six of the 2022-2023 season for tampering — there's been absolutely no indication of resistance to Walton and company joining the club.

The Walton Penner group has certainly addressed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's mandate for diversity, bringing into the fold three prominent Black partners: Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments and the board chair for Starbucks (she's also the wife of Star Wars creator George Lucas); former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; and Lewis Hamilton, an enormously popular race-car driver and de facto star of the Netflix series Formula 1: Drive to Survive.

As for Walton, he's a white man of a certain age — a characteristic he shares with the overwhelming majority of the owner/voters. The only two owners of color are the Buffalo Bills' Kim Pegula, who's from South Korea, and the Jacksonville Jaguars' Shahid Rafiq Khan, born in Pakistan. Female owners aside from Pegula, who shares the Bills with her husband, Terry Pegula, include the Chicago Bears' Virginia Halas McCasky, eldest child of franchise founder George Halas, as well as the Detroit Lions' Sheila Firestone Ford Hamp, the New Orleans Saints' Gayle Benson, the Seattle Seahawks Jody Allen, and the Tennessee Titans' Amy Adams Strunk.

If the deal goes through, Walton will be the new NFL bank-account champion....even after $4.65 billion is subtracted from his bank account. As of this morning, Forbes estimates his net worth at a mere $59.8 billion, down from around $70 billion a few months back, but still way more than any of his soon-to-be peers.
click to enlarge
Rob Walton shaking hands with his son-in-law Greg Penner, Walmart chairman and member of the Walton Penner group.
Here are Pro Football Network's rankings for the richest NFL owners, from lowest to highest net worth as of January. Note where the family members of the late Pat Bowlen, who bought the Broncos in 1983, were listed prior to the promised Walton windfall.
32) Green Bay Packers
Net worth: N/A (publicly owned: individuals are allowed to buy stock in the team)

31) Mark Davis, Las Vegas Raiders
Net worth: $500 million

30) Mike Brown, Cincinnati Bengals
Net worth: $925 million

29) Bowlen family, Denver Broncos
Net worth: $1 billion

28) Art Rooney II, Pittsburgh Steelers
Net worth: $500 million to $1 billion

27) Virginia Halas McCaskey, Chicago Bears
Net worth: $1.3 billion

26) Zygi Wilf, Minnesota Vikings
Net worth: $1.3 billion

25) Amy Adams Strunk, Tennessee Titans
Net worth: $1.3 billion

24) Michael Bidwell, Arizona Cardinals
Net worth: $1.4 billion

23) John Mara and Steve Tisch, New York Giants*
Net worth: Mara – $500 million, Tisch – $1.2 billion

22) Sheila Ford Hamp, Detroit Lions
Net worth: $2 billion

21) Dean Spanos, Los Angeles Chargers
Net worth: $2.4 billion

20) Dan Snyder, Washington Commanders
Net worth: $2.6 billion

19) Jim Irsay, Indianapolis Colts
Net worth: $3 billion

18) Jeffrey Lurie, Philadelphia Eagles
Net worth: $3.5 billion

17) Jimmy and Dee Haslam, Cleveland Browns
Net worth: $3.7 billion

16) Gayle Benson, New Orleans Saints
Net worth: $3.8 billion

15) Denise DeBartolo York and Jed York, San Francisco 49ers
Net worth: $4 billion

14) Janice McNair, Houston Texans
Net worth: $4.2 billion

13) Glazer family, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Net worth: $4.7 billion

12) Kim and Terry Pegula, Buffalo Bills
Net worth: $5.7 billion

11) Steve Bisciotti, Baltimore Ravens
Net worth: $5.7 billion

10) Woody and Christopher Johnson, New York Jets
Net worth: $6.3 billion

9) Arthur Blank, Atlanta Falcons
Net worth: $7.2 billion

8) Stephen Ross, Miami Dolphins
Net worth: $8.3 billion

7) Robert Kraft, New England Patriots
Net worth: $8.3 billion

6) Shahid Khan, Jacksonville Jaguars
Net worth: $8.5 billion

5) Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys
Net worth: $9.1 billion

4) Stan Kroenke, Los Angeles Rams
Net worth: $10.7 billion

3) Hunt family, Kansas City Chiefs
Net worth: $15.3 billion

2) David Tepper, Carolina Panthers
Net worth: $15.8 billion

1) Jody Allen, Seattle Seahawks
Net worth: $20.3 billion
Given his financial resources, Walton will instantly become a person to be reckoned with even among the NFL elite, and definitely in the Mile High City. Talk about a possible new stadium for the squad and new development around it will accelerate, and while the Penners will reportedly run the Broncos on a day-to-day basis, Walton will hover over the operation like a monarch.

A new king of Denver is about to be anointed — and his reign will be fascinating to watch.
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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