SBD/July 23, 2014/Franchises

Pat Bowlen Relinquishes Control Of Broncos Due To Alzheimer's, Joe Ellis Taking Over

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Bowlen's goal is to have one of his children run the Broncos
Pat Bowlen, one of the "most iconic" owners in NFL history, is giving up control the Broncos as he "acknowledges he is dealing with Alzheimer's disease," according to a front-page piece by Mike Klis of the DENVER POST. Team President Joe Ellis will have "final-say authority" over team matters and will "assume control of the Broncos as Bowlen focuses on his health." Bowlen, who bought the team in '84, has "placed his Broncos' ownership in the Pat Bowlen Trust that is controlled by non-family members." His "long-term goal is for one of his seven children to run the team when they're ready." The Broncos "will not be put up for sale." The Broncos in a statement said that the trust was "set up by Bowlen more than a decade ago as part of his long-stated desire to keep team ownership in his family." Business in many respects with the Broncos "will continue as usual," as Bowlen already had "removed himself from the team's day-to-day operations" in '11 after he promoted Ellis, his longtime right-hand man. Ellis said, "No one fills Pat Bowlen's shoes. Everybody in this organization -- [Exec VP/Football Operations] John Elway, [coach] John Fox, the players, all the Broncos' employees, we understand what Mr. Bowlen's goals and objectives are and it's our obligation to fulfill them." Klis reports besides his work with the Broncos, Bowlen was co-Chair of the NFL's labor committee "for 10 years and also chaired the broadcasting and NFL Network committees." However, he had "not been active on the league committees in recent years and it was Ellis who represented the Broncos" at the '14 owners meetings in March. Ellis going forward will add CEO to his title (DENVER POST, 7/23). NFL Network’s Rhett Lewis said Bowlen has "put the succession plan in place," and he wants to "keep the organization in the Bowlen family." He has "laid the foundation for success, so the Broncos should be in good shape” (“NFL AM,” NFL Network, 7/23).

A COLORADO ICON: In Denver, Woody Paige writes under the header, "Pat Bowlen Is One Of Colorado's Most Important Sports Figures." Bowlen's tenure included 307 victories with "only five losing seasons," and he ran the franchise "to two Super Bowl championships and the pinnacle of prestige, pride and power" in the NFL. He also "ran the campaign to get, and help fund" Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Bowlen has admitted that he "committed errors" during this 30 years owning the club, but it was "not for the lack of committing his financial resources and football wherewithal to the Broncos" (DENVER POST, 7/23). NFL.com's Chris Wesseling writes Bowlen has been "one of the most iconic figures in Colorado sports history," and his "importance to the NFL, and Denver in particular, cannot be overstated." He brought "stability to a franchise on the brink of disaster" (NFL.com, 7/23). In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes Bowlen understands that a sports franchise is "far more than a rich boy's toy," and for "better or worse, the Broncos have become one of Denver's leading reasons to brag ... or cry." It was Bowlen who "insisted the Broncos brand must always stand for excellence." The Broncos will "certainly strive to be a winning organization for the next 30 years," but it would be "foolish to take excellence as a guarantee" in Bowlen's absence (DENVER POST, 7/23).

LEAVING A LEGACY ON THE LEAGUE: NFL Network’s Mark Kriegel noted Bowlen is viewed "with immense respect" throughout the NFL. Kriegel: "Bowlen's reign was an overwhelming, unqualified success. The Broncos have been to Super Bowls in three of the four decades he's owned the team" ("NFL AM," NFL Network, 7/23). ESPN's Chris Mortensen said, "This is a guy who was very active within the league, active within the broadcast committee, the executive committees. A man who didn't hog the spotlight but had a tremendous presence about him. ... He always supported his football people and he always wanted to be in the loop. He always felt like the people in the building understood he was the owner but wasn't going to to be an oppressive owner" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/23).

DISEASE'S IMPACT: ESPN's Mark Schlereth, who played for the Broncos from '95-'00, noted he has seen Bowlen recently "on several different occasions" and said, "When I've seen Pat, there are times I think he was lucid and there are times when he didn't know who I was." Schlereth said Bowlen's condition was "well known" among people inside the NFL community, but outside the NFL community, people "didn't really realize what the family was going through." Schlereth: "Your heart certainly goes out" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/23). NFL Network's Jordan Babineaux said, "We hate to really focus on health concerns of our older generation of colleagues throughout the NFL, but it is a reality." Babineaux played with the Titans from '11-12 and said he could see late team Owner Bud Adams "kind of deteriorate later on through his years." He said, "It was just a strong feeling that kind of overtook the locker room that you felt overwhelmed and you felt the compassionate feeling toward the guy and his family” (“NFL AM,” NFL Network, 7/23).
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