The Broncos now sport the richest and most diverse ownership in the NFL
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. >> The Denver Broncos now sport the richest owner in the NFL and the most diverse ownership group in the league.
Four of the six members of the Walton-Penner ownership group that was welcomed into the NFL fraternity this week are either women or minorities.
Walmart heir Rob Walton today said his son-in-law Greg Penner will serve as the team’s CEO. Penner, in turn, said he would be hiring a team president soon.
These roles had been held by Joe Ellis, who remains this year as an adviser.
Penner said he will be the resource person “but it’s an amazing group. We will build on each of them.
Walton thanked Ellis for his 27 years of service and paid tribute to the late Pat Bowlen, who bought the team in 1984 for $78 million and died in 2019 a month before his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Pat Bowlen has built a great legacy and record of wins and championships,” Walton said. “We plan to do everything we can to continue the championship tradition of this great organization. … Simply put, it’s an honor to lead this historic franchise. Our #1 priority is to put a winning team on the field to win the Super Bowl.
Walton, the eldest child of Walmart co-founder Sam Walton, bought the Broncos along with his daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and her husband, for $4.65 billion, a world record for a professional sports franchise.
Walton’s estimated net worth is $60 billion. Before Walton’s group bought the Broncos, the richest owner in the NFL was David Tepper of Carolina, who Forbes estimates has a total net worth of $16.7 billion.
The ownership group includes limited partners Mellody Hobson, Condoleezza Rice and Lewis Hamilton. Hobson is CEO of Starbucks, Rice is a Stanford professor and former US Secretary of State, and Hamilton is the winningest Formula 1 driver in history.
All three investors are black, satisfying the league’s goal of bringing more racial diversity to ownership groups, front offices and coaching staffs.
“We wanted to add people who brought different perspectives and experiences and that’s definitely what we have here,” Penner said. “Lewis, being the GOAT (greatest of all time) Formula 1 driver, Dr Rice with all his experience in politics, academia and world affairs, Mellody, as you know, a woman of amazing business and his track record there.
“We strongly believe in bringing together different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds and we believe this will make us more successful.”
All but Hamilton, who is in season, gathered at team headquarters a day after the other NFL owners unanimously approved the sale Tuesday in Minnesota.
The Broncos’ new ownership group met with staff and players before practice and star safety Justin Simmons said he was proud to see so many faces of color.
“Seeing some diversity and seeing strong black women in the ownership group, I mean, what an inspiration to so many people,” said Simmons, who is biracial. “There are little girls here whose dads play on the team and they can look at Broncos property and they can see someone who looks like them and I think that’s really great.
“But I think the biggest thing on top of that is that they didn’t just do this to do this,” Simmons said. “I mean, these are really powerful, qualified people who deserved this, earned this, worked for this. And that for me by inspiring.
Hobson called it “an honor and a privilege to own this remarkable organization. … The moment is humbling and historic, and yet, I feel at home.
Hobson said that when she was first approached about joining the ownership group, she encouraged Walton to bring her friend Hamilton on board as well.
“Lewis is my chosen little brother,” she said. “As soon as that opportunity presented itself, I said, ‘You have to have Lewis. I met Lewis during his rookie season as an F1 driver. We bonded over time. As many of you know he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth and I call him ‘Sir Little Brother’.
“He has this winning mentality not only on the track but in everything he does. He cares deeply about people, our planet and as the first and only (black F1 driver) in his sport, the diversity, equity and inclusion.
Rice, who grew up in Denver, joked that her late father, who was a huge football fan, “must be thinking, ‘She finally got a really important job.'”
Penner, who said he has no plans to bring in any other sponsors, objected when asked if John Elway or Peyton Manning would be involved with the team in the future.
The new owners met the two in the field today. Elway told The Associated Press earlier this year that he would like to advise new owners to help them through their first year.
“We’re just going to learn from both of them,” Penner said. “I think it’s going to be a really good relationship.”
While saying he was thrilled that general manager George Payton acquired quarterback Russell Wilson this spring, Penner gave no timeline for a contract extension that is expected to be worth around $260 million over five years.