Former Broncos owner loses bid to buy 10 percent of the team

Updated: August 1, 2006, 11:17 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt a setback to a former Denver Broncos owner's efforts to regain a portion of the franchise, ruling that an offer to sell John Elway a portion of the team doesn't trigger a contract buyback provision.

Edward Kaiser Jr. sold his 60.8 percent share in the team to Pat Bowlen in 1984 and sued in 1998 after Bowlen offered Elway a portion of the team. Kaiser has contended in several court cases that Bowlen violated a provision in their sales contract that would have allowed Kaiser the right of first refusal when it comes to selling a portion of the team.

A U.S. District Court jury in 2004 ruled that Bowlen violated the contract when he offered Elway 10 percent of the team for $15 million.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch ruled that Kaiser should be able to buy 10 percent of the team back for the same price. Bowlen also would have the right to buy the stake back after two years under Matsch's ruling for far less than what a 10 percent stake in the team would be worth.

Both sides appealed that decision.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that the way the Elway offer was structured -- 10 percent of shares in a company that held ownership of the team, not the team itself -- was not covered by the provisions of the contract covering Kaiser's sale to Bowlen.

"We are not in the business of rewriting or supplementing agreements for parties after a contract is joined," the panel wrote in rejecting Kaiser's claims.

It was unclear what steps Kaiser's attorney, Stephen Long, would take. Messages left after business hours were not immediately returned.

Elway declined the ownership offer because he wanted a more active role in managing the team than he was offered.

The appellate court also let stand a jury's findings that Bowlen did not violate the sales agreement when he began distributing Broncos ownership interest to family members.

Bowlen attorney Sean Connelly said the opinion should put an end to all of Kaiser's claims, including a case pending in state court.

Kaiser's separate lawsuit in state court in Denver seeks a 50 percent stake in the franchise. In that lawsuit, Kaiser contends Bowlen violated the sales contract after Bowlen's siblings bought out the remaining 39.2 percent of the Broncos from two businessmen. The siblings later sold a portion of their shares to Bowlen, which is what Kaiser says is a violation of his right of first refusal to the sale.

"We believe this (opinion Tuesday) should put an end to the federal case, but also to the state case or any other challenge Kaiser would want to bring to events occurring over the past two decades," Connelly said.

Any change in franchise ownership would have to be approved by three-fourths of the NFL owners. ^------=

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