Denver Broncos Trustees Accused of Causing Family and Team Dysfunction

 

When longtime Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen stepped away from running the team in 2014, after going public with his battle with Alzheimer’s, he put what was meant to be an orderly family succession plan in place.

The plan sets out qualifications for his seven children, including evaluation of work experience and education, among other factors, before one of them is to be selected controlling owner by the board of three trustees: Joe Ellis, president and CEO of the Broncos, Rich Slivka, Pat’s lawyer for decades and the Broncos’ general counsel and Mary Kelly, another attorney.

Beth Bowlen Wallace, 48, one of Pat’s children from his first marriage, has publicly expressed her desire to fill that role. Her experience includes a law degree, various philanthropic endeavors and business ventures, including an energy startup co-founded with her husband. The trustees, however, issued a statement that Beth isn’t qualified for the position. Instead, it appears that they’re more keen on grooming Brittany Bowlen, one of Pat’s children from his current marriage, who holds a business degree and is a business analyst for the team, to one day take over. One of Pat’s brothers, Bill Bowlen, who previously sold his shares in the team, is calling foul.

Lawsuit Filed

Bill recently filed a court order seeking removal of the three trustees. According to Bill, the trustees are acting in their best interests and not in accordance with Pat’s succession plan, knowing well the “implementation of that plan essentially means the defendants will be working themselves out of a position with the Denver Broncos Football Club.” On its face, that argument seems to have merit to it, as waiting until Brittany, who is only 28, is qualified to take over would clearly buy them some time. The trustees responded by asking the judge to hold off on that decision while they ask the National Football League to arbitrate the matter. Last week, Bill promptly filed an objection to that request for delay.

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Brooke Swier Schloss
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Estate Planning & Family Law Attorney