F1 star Lewis Hamilton joins new Denver Broncos ownership group

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With the final step of the purchase of the Denver Broncos by a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton set for Aug. 9, the Walton-Penner group has added another high-profile investor to its ranks.

Walton announced Tuesday morning that seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton will now have an ownership stake. Hamilton joins former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who joined the group as an investor last month.

"We're delighted to welcome seven-time Formula One World Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton to our ownership group,'' Rob Walton said in a statement. "He is a champion competitor who knows what it takes to lead a winning team.''

Hamilton expressed his excitement Tuesday on Twitter about joining the Broncos' ownership group.

In addition to his record-tying seven titles (with Michael Schumacher), the 37-year-old Hamilton holds the Formula One record for race wins (103). He finished second in the Hungarian Grand Prix last week and is currently sixth in this year's driver standings.

In June, a group led by Walton that includes Walton's daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, her husband, Greg Penner, and co-CEO of Ariel Investments Mellody Hobson agreed to purchase the Broncos for $4.65 billion. The NFL has scheduled a vote for Aug. 9 among the team owners at a meeting in Minneapolis that would formally approve the sale to the Walton-Penner group -- the last step in a monthslong process.

The league's finance committee unanimously recommended last week for the sale to be approved. It will take 24 "yes'' votes for the sale to be finalized.

The sale price is a record for a North American sports franchise. The Walton-Penner group was, according to multiple sources, one of four groups that had advanced to the second round of bidding for the team in early June.

The Broncos have been one of the NFL's most successful franchises in the Super Bowl era, with three Super Bowl wins as well as more Super Bowl trips overall than losing seasons in Pat Bowlen's ownership tenure, and they now have an ownership group with the league's deepest pockets.

It is expected Greg Penner and Carrie Walton Penner will have prominent roles in the day-to-day operations of the team, and current 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.

The team's sale ended an eight-year odyssey since Bowlen stepped away from the day-to-day operations of the team he had owned for 30 years 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 Ellis, Broncos counsel Rich Slivka and Denver attorney Mary Kelly.

What followed included a lawsuit between family members, harsh words and court dates that coincided with a current six-year streak of playoff misses on the field. The team's Super Bowl 50 win to close out the 2015 season was the last postseason game the Broncos played.

The sale agreement with the Walton-Penner group also means Walton and Stan Kroenke, Walton's cousin by marriage, will own five of the six major professional sports franchises in Colorado. Kroenke owns the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids and Colorado Mammoth lacrosse team, in addition to a regional media company in the state.