NFL finance committee unanimously recommends league owners approve Denver Broncos sale to group headed by Rob Walton

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The record-setting $4.65 billion sale of the Denver Broncos to a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton cleared one of its final hurdles Wednesday.

The league's finance committee reviewed the sale agreement and unanimously recommended the Walton-Penner group -- which also includes Walton's daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and her husband, Greg Penner -- be formally approved by the league owners when they meet in Minneapolis on Aug. 9. It will require at least 24 "yes" votes for approval.

"We appreciate the diligence and hard work of the National Football League's Finance Committee with its recommendation to approve our purchase of the Denver Broncos," Walton said in a statement on behalf of the group. "(Wednesday's) vote marks an important milestone and we are excited for the next step involving all of the league's owners."

The Walton-Penner group also includes Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments, chair of the board of Starbucks Corp. and a director at JP Morgan Chase, and former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The $4.65 billion price tag is the highest paid for a North American sports franchise.

The Broncos have been one of the NFL's most successful franchises in the Super Bowl era, with three Super Bowl wins in Pat Bowlen's ownership tenure, and they now have an ownership group with the league's deepest pockets. The Carolina Panthers had held the record for most paid for an NFL franchise when David Tepper purchased them in 2018 for $2.3 billion.

The most paid previously for a North American sports franchise was $2.475 billion in 2020 by Steven Cohen to purchase the New York Mets.

Broncos general manager George Paton said Tuesday that he had spoken to the team's prospective new owners in recent weeks.

"Not just myself and coach [Nathaniel] Hackett, but the entire organization is really excited for the ownership group," he said. "It's a dynamic ownership group -- [they're] accomplished, incredibly accomplished, intelligent and thoughtful leadership. They're going to help with the culture here, and we just can't wait to get them here. I've had a few conversations with them, and one thing I know is they're all about winning. They want to win the right way. They're going to set a winning culture, and they will set the tone."

Bowlen and his siblings originally paid $78 million in 1984 for controlling interest in the Broncos. Bowlen later purchased the shares held by his sister and two brothers. The team had more Super Bowl appearances (seven) than losing seasons in his tenure.

It is expected Greg Penner will have a prominent role in the day-to-day operations of the team.

The sale approval will formally end an eight-year odyssey since Bowlen stepped away from the day-to-day operations of the team in July 2014 due to the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Bowlen died in 2019.

Bowlen never formally declared a successor among his children, and when he stepped away from the team's day-to-day operations, he had his interest in the team (estimated to be about 78% at the time) placed in a trust overseen by Broncos CEO/president Joe Ellis, Broncos counsel Rich Slivka and Denver attorney Mary Kelly.