Rob Walton wins auction from Denver Broncos in record $4.6 billion deal – Sportico.com

Billionaire Rob Walton has won the bid for the Denver Broncos.

The Walmart heir, one of the wealthiest people in the United States, has reached an agreement to acquire the NFL franchise, according to a statement released by the team late Tuesday night. The deal is worth an estimated $4.6 billion, according to a person familiar with the deal, by far the most expensive price ever paid for a sports franchise.

The deal still needs to be approved by the NFL’s finance committee and league ownership, though Walton’s credentials likely help the process. The group includes Carrie Walton Penner, Rob’s daughter, and Carrie’s husband, Greg Penner, founder and general partner of Madrone Capital Partners.

“We look forward to earning the trust and support of the NFL as we take the next step in this process,” Walton said in a statement. “When the necessary procedures are followed, our family is excited to share more with Broncos fans, the organization and the community.”

If the deal is approved, it would strengthen the Walton family’s ties to American sports. Rob’s cousin Ann is married to Stan Kroenke, owner of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, NBA’s Denver Nuggets, NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and MLS’s Colorado Rapids.

The lack of diversity in the NFL’s owning ranks has been a central part of the conversation surrounding the sale of the Broncos, particularly because real estate sales typically have to go to the highest qualified bidder. Walton said Tuesday evening that Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments, was part of his group. Hobson, who is black, is married to filmmaker George Lucas and chairs the board of Starbucks.

The announcement comes just a day after second-round offers were expected for the team. Other groups that submitted offers on Monday were led by Clearlake Capital co-founders Behdad Eghbali and Jose Feliciano; Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Josh Harris; and the Ishbia brothers, Justin and Mat.

Walton, however, loomed large over the entire sale. He’s worth around $60 billion, according to Bloomberg, which will make him the NFL’s richest owner by a factor of three. This wealth dampened the process somewhat, with other auction groups aware that Walton would likely win any long bid. In recent weeks, those same groups have begun to question whether a bidding war with Walton could serve to make it more expensive to buy whoever the next NFL team hits the market.

“Today marks an important milestone on the path to an exciting new chapter in Broncos history,” team president Joe Ellis said in a statement.

The Broncos officially hit the market earlier this year, but it was a sale that many lawyers, bankers and investors were prepared for. Former Broncos owner Pat Bowlen died in 2019 with no firm succession plan for the franchises, and while it took a while to settle a few lawsuits, the general assumption was that his trust would eventually sell out. ‘crew.

The highest price previously paid for an NFL franchise was the roughly $2.3 billion paid by David Tepper, currently the NFL’s wealthiest owner, to buy the Carolina Panthers in 2018. The last three sales of the NFL have each been held at double previous prices, ranging from the Buffalo Bills in 2014 ($1.4 billion) to the Panthers in 2018 ($2.3 billion) to the Broncos in 2022 ($4.65 billion) .

The previous record for a sports team’s valuation in a deal was the $3.3 billion paid by Joe Tsai for the purchase of the Brooklyn Nets and the rights to operate Barclays Center in 2019.

(This story corrected the sale price of the Buffalo Bills to $1.4 billion from $1.1 billion in the penultimate paragraph.)

Laura J. Boyer