When it comes to the most successful franchises in sports, there are usually a few correlating factors. Without a doubt, one of the most important is stability at the higher levels of the franchise where change could become chaotic.
For the Denver Broncos, it has been a largely enjoyable run. There were some bad times as any franchise has but it’s hard to complain about eight trips to the Super Bowl and a trio of wins. A lot of that has to do with the ownership group.
So, who are the owners of the Denver Broncos? Here’s what that ownership history has looked like throughout the years.
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Robert Howsam (1960)
Robert “Bob” Howsam founded the Denver Broncos back in 1960. Remember, this is in a time when teams may have been worth thousands, not billions of dollars. An investment in football was a difficult one and brought with it a lot of risk as well.
After a 4-9-1 first year for the Broncos, Howsam sold the team to a group of local Denver businessmen. As it turns out, that group would be an integral part of the ownership group for the better part of the next two decades of Denver Broncos football.
— Steven Sharp (@TheStevenSharp) February 28, 2022
Calvin Kunz (1961-1964)
A trio of businessmen became owners of Denver Broncos after purchasing the team from Howsam, among them Cal Kunz. It is hard to remember that there was a time when the Broncos were anything but a great team in the NFL. It was tough times right out of the gate and that didn’t change when the trio of businessmen took over.
By 1965, Kunz had enough. The group was on the verge of selling the franchise to a group out of Atlanta. Kunz decided that he was ultimately done with the Broncos, selling his stake in the team to move on to other business ventures. But the other two business partners remained.
Gerald Phipps (1961-1980)
The reason that the team was not sold to the Atlanta contingent was due to one of the partners in the group, Gerald H. Phipps. “Gerry” got up in the middle of the meeting with the Atlanta group, went to the bank across the street, borrowed the funds he needed, and returned to the meeting to buy out his business partners.
On Valentine’s Day 1965, Phipps called the Atlanta group to tell them that there was no deal to be had. In the simplest terms, there would be no Denver Broncos without Gerry Phipps. He may not have gotten the glory of later ownership groups but he is certainly an integral component in the history of Denver Broncos football.
As we have done since we became the official booster club of the @Broncos in 1964 – (The Phipps brothers wearing their QB Club jackets when they were introduced as the new owners) We Supportum! Can’t wait for next season – GO BRONCOS! #BroncosCountry @dleech9 pic.twitter.com/EwndkN0EE7
— DenverBroncos QBClub (@BroncosQBClub) January 9, 2023
Allan Phipps (1965-1980)
Phipps would partner with his brother Gerry to own the single largest block of Denver Broncos stock. He was the quiet business partner to the more vocal Gerry, who got all the attention for saving the franchise from a potential move prior to the 1965 season.
All and Gerry kept the team in Denver and had no plans of leaving. They received a mountain of interest and not just from the Atlanta group. Two owners, in particular – Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills and Sonny Werblin of the New York Jets – tried to sway them but it ultimately failed and the Broncos were here to stay.
Edgar Kaiser (1981-1983)
In 1981, the Phipps brothers eventually decided to sell the team and find some new Denver Broncos owners. The buyer was Edgar F. Kaiser Jr., who was the grandson of Henry Kaiser. Henry founded a company that helped to build the Hoover Dam and also owned the shipyards that were capable of producing a ship a week during World War II.
Kaiser unfortunately came at a time between major successes. The Phipps had seen one Super Bowl appearance in 1977 before moving on. Kaiser owned the team for just three years before deciding to sell the team to Pat Bowlen prior to the 1984 NFL season.
Pat Bowlen (1984-2018)
So, who are the owners of Denver Broncos that stayed longer in the team? One of the Denver Broncos owners that fans think of, it is Pat Bowlen. He remained in charge for 34 years and was there for the biggest highs in the history of the franchise. He also orchestrated the John Elway trade, setting the table for the next 15 years.
Under Bowlen’s run, the Broncos would make seven Super Bowls, winning three along the way. Bowlen’s run created one of the most stable runs for an ownership group in the history of the league. Fans feel largely great about Bowlen’s tenure in the Mile High City.
Today marks the end of one of the greatest eras in sports
Here’s to the Bowlen era and all Pat Bowlen did for the Denver Broncos 🍻 pic.twitter.com/xcTV2udM8v
— Nick ✊ (@MileHigh_Nick) August 9, 2022
Joe Ellis (2019-2021)
Ellis had actually been in the picture with the Broncos for more than 20 years before becoming one of the owners of Denver Broncos. He began as the Executive Vice President of Business Operations in 1998, holding the role until 2007, when he became the COO.
He served as President, and later CEO, from 2011-2022, seeing the Broncos capture their third Super Bowl championship at Super Bowl 50. He took control of the team when Bowlen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease before ultimately stepping down when the Walton Penner group was officially approved to be the new owners of the Broncos.
The Pat Bowlen Trust announced today the beginning of a sale process for the Denver Broncos.
Joe Ellis: “Whoever emerges as the new owner will certainly understand what the team means to our great fans and this community.” pic.twitter.com/ubfPc4TjID
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) February 1, 2022
Greg Penner (2022-current)
So, who are the new owners of the Denver Broncos? Ending the list of Denver Broncos owners is the current CEO Greg Penner. As part of the Walton Penner Group, Penner has taken over as the owner and CEO of the Denver Broncos. A syndicate consisting of himself, his wife Carrie, Condoleezza Rice, Mellody Hobson, S. Robson Walton, and Sir Lewis Hamilton came together to purchase the team from Bowlen.
Currently, Penner is the operating head of the franchise as well as the Chairman of Walmart. His responsibility will be the day-to-day football and business operations as well as collaborating with other members of the Walton-Penner Family ownership group.
The Broncos are wrapping up their rookie minicamp today with Owners Carrie Walton Penner and Greg Penner taking in the practice. 👋 pic.twitter.com/nd32k9ifeK
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) May 14, 2023
The Denver Broncos have been blessed to have a solid, stable ownership group for much of their time in the NFL. Pat Bowlen was always there to provide support and stability for his more than 30 years as owner and three Super Bowl championships came as a result. Quality ownership matters and the Broncos have had that in spades.
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Credits on Featured Image: Photograph by Vivek Prakash/Fortune