The Denver Broncos are about to have a new owner. A group led by Rob Walton, the son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, has secured the winning bid for the team. The group also includes Walton’s daughter Carrie and husband Greg Penner, and Mellody Hobson, co-CEO and president of Ariel Investments and the wife of Star Wars creator George Lucas.
The buying group will pay $4.65 billion to purchase the Broncos. That’s the most anyone has spent for a U.S. professional sports team — by far. In 2019, Joseph Tsai, co-founder of Alibaba, spent $3.3 billion to buy the Brooklyn Nets. David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers for $2.3 billion in 2018. You might remember the Broncos defeated the Panthers in Super Bowl 50. And now, they’re the two most recent NFL teams to exchange hands.
Despite a massive fortune — Rob Walton is currently the 17th wealthiest person in the world — the Walton family tends to shy away from massive purchases like this. The Walmart brand was built under the idea that people should have affordable access to groceries, electronics, and other household items. Though the family typically keeps its budget in check, it found the opportunity to join the exclusive ranks of NFL owners too good to pass up.
The Walton buying group outbid other offers for the team, including ones from mortgage mogul Mat Ishbia and Apollo Global Management co-founder Josh Harris. Other people reported to be potential owners included media mogul Byron Allen and Vista Equity Firm founder Robert Smith, but those deals either never materialized (in Allen’s case), or were far-fetched in the first place; despite Denver being his hometown, Smith had no interest in owning the Broncos.
The $4.65 billion price tag, which Walton likely won’t front all on his own, still only makes up about 8% of Walton’s entire net worth. While it’s a massive, historical purchase, in the grand scheme of things, it’s closer to a drop in the bucket than wiping out his wealth.
Hobson also will become the first Black owner of an NFL franchise. Beyond Ariel Investments, she’s the chair of Starbucks and serves on the board of several organizations, including Bloomberg Philanthropies, JPMorgan Chase, and the Sundance Institute, among others.
Together, the new ownership group will look to return the team back to its former glory. They haven’t made the playoffs since winning the Super Bowl in 2015, but they’ve got a brand new quarterback in Russell Wilson.
There’s plenty of change happening in Denver — it’s an exciting time to be in the Mile High City.