DENVER (KDVR) — Uncertainty surrounding the future ownership of the Denver Broncos just became a lot more clear with a judge’s ruling Tuesday. Denver District Court Judge Shelley Gilman denied the Kaiser camp’s right of first refusal for a new ownership group.
“The right of first refusal is no longer valid or enforceable in any respect,” the ruling said.
This clears the final hurdle in a long legal battle to determine if the right of first refusal that Pat Bowlen gave former Broncos owner Edgar Kaiser in 1984 is still enforceable even though both men have passed.
“We are very pleased with the Court’s order today terminating any right of first refusal. The Trustees will continue moving forward with the ownership transition process,” attorney Dan Reilly said in a statement.
Forbes valued the team at nearly $4 billion, and now that the ruling has come down, the team could be under new ownership come the start of the 2022 season. Broncos management has said the ownership group will change.
“We’re glad to put this issue behind us and move closer to transitioning ownership of the Denver Broncos. While our focus at this time is on our head coaching search, we plan to make an announcement regarding ownership shortly after that hire is completed,” Broncos Chief Executive Officer and Team President Joe Ellis said in a statement.
Bowlen, who died in 2019 after a long bout with Alzheimer’s, bought the team from Kaiser in 1984. His will stipulated that his seven children from his two marriages must agree on which one succeeds him as controlling owner to keep the club off the market.
Two daughters from his first marriage withdrew a lawsuit in July that contested Bowlen’s will, appearing to pave the way for a sale. Later that month, team president and trustee Joe Ellis said he hoped to have the long-running ownership saga settled by the start of the 2022 season.
The lawsuit came in response to a May 2020 letter lawyers for PDB Sports Ltd. and Bowlen Sports Inc. received from ROFR Holdings suggesting it had the right to match any offer in the event the team is sold.
The letter said Kaiser had transferred his stake in the agreement with Bowlen to ROFR Holdings, a corporation he started in 2005. ROFR is an acronym for Right of First Refusal.
PDB Sports and Bowlen Sports responded that the pact from Kaiser’s 1984 sale of his 60.8% stake to Bowlen is no longer valid because it was a personal one that ended when Kaiser died in 2012.
The court order read:
1. The right of first refusal contained in … 1984, Agreement of Sale between Edgar F. Kaiser, Jr. and Patrick D. Bowlen … has terminated in its entirety.
2. The right of first refusal is no longer valid or enforceable in any respect.
3. None of the Defendants have any rights under the right of first refusal. This specifically includes that none of the Defendants are entitled to notice of any intended sale of the 60.8% Partnership Interest in PDB Sports, Ltd. or of the Broncos franchise.
4. Plaintiffs do not have any obligations under the right of first refusal, specifically including that there is no obligation to provide notice of any intended sale of the 60.8% Partnership Interest in PDB Sports, Ltd. or of the Broncos franchise.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.