BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The Broncos are set up well. No concerns.
That was the message from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday during his annual news conference ahead of the Super Bowl. Goodell, in a question-and-answer session with media, was asked specifically about the Broncos and their eventual selection of a next owner.
“Those decisions … are all questions that the trustees have to decide,” Goodell said. “They are in compliance with our rules. They have been very thoughtful.”
Pat Bowlen, the Broncos’ owner of 34 years, stepped down from his day-to-day duties in the fall of 2013 because of the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. President and CEO Joe Ellis was appointed Controlling Owner Delegee and has served as the voice of the team at league-wide functions and its top decision-maker.
“They have done a terrific job of leading that franchise over the last several years as Pat’s focused on his health issues,” Goodell said. “I think Pat put that in place because of the care and focus and the importance of the Broncos to him and making sure that it continued to be in the right hands and with the right kind of leadership.”
Ellis is also one of three trustees, along with team counsel Rich Slivka and Denver attorney Mary Kelly, who are tasked with appointing the Broncos’ next controlling owner.
Bowlen’s wish — and the primary reason for establishing the trust — is to transfer ownership to his seven children, with one being named controlling owner. It’s up to the trustees to select which child if any — the trustees have the authority to sell the team, too — will land that role.
“The focus is what Pat Bowlen wanted and how he set this up,” Goodell said. “Having been very close to Pat I care very much about him, his family, his health. He was an extraordinarily important person to the NFL when he was active in the league, and he continues to be somebody that we all admire and care for his health.
“Second, he was very active in making sure that he did exactly that, which is, ‘How do I make sure that the Broncos franchise continues to be successful? I want it to be a point of pride for the people in the Denver community and Colorado. I want it to be something that the NFL is proud of, my partners are proud of,’ meaning the other 31 clubs. He’s done an extraordinary job of setting that up.”
In February 2015, the trust informed Bowlen’s adult children and wife Annabel of a loose criteria for their selection, which include at least five years of “senior management” experience with the team, league or Stadium Management Company, plus a bachelor’s degree paired with an MBA, J.D. or other advanced business-related degree.
The criteria leave two of the children — Beth Wallace, 47, a daughter with first wife Sally Parker, and Brittany Bowlen, 28, a daughter with Annabel — as two on track to be qualified. Wallace received her law degree from the University of Denver in 2016 and worked for the Broncos as their director of special projects for more than three years. Brittany Bowlen was a part of the NFL’s junior rotational program, spent a season as an analyst in the Broncos’ business department and is expected to accept a position with McKinsey & Company Consulting upon completing her MBA at Duke University.