$900 Million Officially Slips Through John Elway’s Fingers As Rob Walton Agrees To Buy The Broncos For $4.5 Billion


John Elway’s family may want to give him a bit of space for the next few days/weeks/months. Maybe get him a therapy dog or sign him up for Talk Space. Disconnect the wifi and cancel cable. Whatever it takes to get his mind off the fact that an $800 million payday is about to officially slip through his fingers.

This story be familiar to regular Celebrity Net Worth readers, but just in case here’s a brief recap:

John Elway played for the Denver Broncos for his entire career, during which time he threw for 50,000+ yards, with exactly 300 touchdown passes, nine Pro Bowl teams and two Super Bowl championships.

Back in 1998, his final NFL season, team owner Pat Bowlen came to John with an offer. At the time, John was owed $21 million in deferred salary (à la Bobby Bonilla). Bowlen’s offer was simple:

  • #1: John could buy 10% of the team for $15 million.
  • #2: John could have another 10% if he agreed to relinquish the $21 million deferred salary.

In other words, for a combined $36 million (with only $15 million of cash coming out of his bank on day one), John Elway could have bought 20% of the Broncos. At that level, Bowlen was offering 20% of the Broncos at a $180 million overall team valuation.

As if that offer wasn’t generous enough, Pat gave John a 100% risk-free insurance policy. If after five years John wanted out, he could sell his stake back to Bowlen for his purchase price plus $5 million. So not only risk free, literally get paid $5 million if he changed his mind.

And in case you are wondering if Elway could have afforded $15 million down in 1998, at that point he had earned $50 million in NFL salary, around $20 million from endorsements AND just one year earlier had sold his John Elway Autos franchise for $82.5 million.

So $15 million for a risk-free opportunity to own 20% of an NFL team. What did John decide?

He declined. And today that officially became an absolutely horrendous decision…

(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Bowlen Trust Cashes Out

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen died on June 13, 2019 at the age of 75. Upon his death Broncos ownership was passed down to his seven children in equal parts.

Unfortunately, family owned businesses can be a hornet’s nest of challenges. Especially when no one has a majority ownership stake to make final decisions.

The Bowlen heirs reportedly struggled for two years over basic franchise decisions. In the end, the did agree on one thing: It was time to cash out.

In March of this year, the Bowlen Trust announced it was seeking acquisition offers for the Broncos. And today a winner has been chosen.

Earlier this morning it was revealed that the Bowlen Trust reached an agreement with Walmart heir Rob Walton to sell the Broncos for…

$4.5 billion

Not to beat a dead bronco, but recall that John Elway was offered the chance to buy 20% at a $180 million team valuation. In other words, today John Elway’s decision to NOT take Pat Bowlen’s offer officially cost him…

$900 million

As if that wasn’t painful enough, there’s more pain in this story for John Elway. Instead of buying 20% of the Broncos, John ended up taking that same down payment amount, $15 million, and invested it in what eventually proved to be a $150 million Ponzi scheme. Not only did John NOT make any return on the $15 million, he lost a bit more than half of his investment.

So in essence, instead of taking $15 million and turning it into $900 million, John took $15 million and turned it into $7 million 🙁

Now you understand why John’s family might want to give him some space for the next few weeks/months/years 🙂

Walmart NFL Teams

Fun fact – With Rob Walton’s purchase of the Broncos, two NFL teams now belong to the extended Walmart family.

Rob is the son of Sam Walton, the primary founder of Walmart. Most people have heard of Sam Walton. Most people don’t realize that Sam’s younger brother Bud Walton co-founded the retail empire.

Bud’s had two daughters: Ann and Nancy.

In 1974, Ann Walton married… Stan Kroenke.

Using seed money from Ann, Stan built his own commercial real estate empire. In 1995 Stan purchased 30% of the Los Angeles Rams and orchestrated the team’d move to St. Louis. In 2010 he became 100% team owner. In 2017 he moved the Rams back to Los Angeles.

So it’s a good day to be a member of the Walton family (when is it ever a bad day?) and probably a not-so-fun day to be a member of the Elway family.

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