Group buying Denver Broncos discussing advisory role, ownership stake with Peyton Manning, sources say

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Walton-Penner group that agreed to buy the Denver Broncos this week has contacted Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning about a role in the organization that could eventually lead to an equity stake in the franchise, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Thursday.

Sources told Schefter that the group reached out to Manning about an advisory role with the team that could lead to his joining the ownership group.

Manning was contacted by multiple groups during the bidding process to acquire the Broncos, sources told ESPN.

The Pat Bowlen Trust, which has operated the Broncos since Bowlen stepped away from day-to-day operations in 2014, announced Tuesday that a sale agreement had been reached with the Walton-Penner group. Sources said the sale price was $4.65 billion, a record for a North American sports franchise.

Bowlen died in 2019, and the Pat Bowlen Trust put the team up for sale earlier this year after no agreement could be reached on which of Bowlen's children would be the principal owner.

The Walton-Penner group is led by Walmart heir Rob Walton and includes his daughter, Carrie Walton Penner; her husband, Greg Penner; and Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments as well as chair of the board of the Starbucks Corp. and a director at JP Morgan Chase.

It is expected the Penners will have prominent roles in the day-to-day operations of the team, and Broncos CEO Joe Ellis had expressed the importance, since the team was formally put up for sale Feb. 1, that the new owner be visible in the community and understand the Broncos' place in Denver, the state of Colorado and the region.

Manning said in October that he had been contacted by several investors who had planned to bid for the Broncos but that none of the discussions were "serious."

"People are obviously interested. They're curious," Manning said at the time. "I care because I live here and I go to the games, and I want to know what's going to happen like everyone else. But I have no relationship or agreement with anybody."

At the time, Manning added, "Even if I'm offered an opportunity, I haven't decided if I would even do it. I actually like what I'm doing now. I get to stay close to the game. ... I'm just taking everything on a one-year-at-a-time basis. Next year, who knows how I'll feel. ... But I'll always be a part of the Broncos, I'll say that."

Manning played four seasons with the Broncos (2012-15) after signing in free agency. With them, he won 45 regular-season games and four AFC West titles and went to two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl 50 in his final NFL game. Manning was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021.

The Broncos have not made the playoffs since that Super Bowl victory.

The sale of the team is subject to review by the NFL's finance committee and must be approved by a full vote of NFL owners. Twenty-four yes votes are needed for the sale to be approved.

It is expected to take 60 to 90 days for the sale to be approved and the deal to be closed. No issues are expected, a source told Schefter on Tuesday.