The drama surrounding ownership of the Broncos continues to escalate. Last month we broke down the latest in the situation, and it’s taken several new turns since then. Owner Pat Bowlen has been unable to manage the team for a while now as he suffers from Alzheimer’s, and last month his brother Bill Bowlen filed a lawsuit against the trust that controls the team, seeking to have the trust dissolved. Now the trust, which has placed CEO Joe Ellis in charge for the past few years, is responding by filing a motion asking that the case be moved to an arbitration process to be ruled on by the NFL, according to Troy Renck of TheDenverChannel.com.
There’s been a battle brewing within the Bowlen family for a while now, but it had been playing out mostly behind the scenes until recently, when it spilled out into the press. A few months back one of Pat’s daughters, Beth Bowlen Wallace, went public with her desire to eventually take control of the team. The trust, which was set up to eventually decide who would take over the team as Pat’s health declined, pushed back on Wallace’s statements, and has said they don’t believe she is ready to run the team. Another one of Pat’s daughters, the 28-year-old Brittany Bowlen, has also confirmed she wants to own the Broncos and she is reportedly the preferred candidate of team and league executives.
The trust, and Ellis, have been accused of dragging their feet intentionally in order to keep themselves in power, a claim they’ve strongly denied. The lawsuit alleges just that, and Bill also claims that his brother was incapacitated at the time the trust was created in 2009 and that it should be deemed invalid.
The trust’s motion includes an affidavit from one of Pat Bowlen’s lawyers at the time, Richard Robinson, who writes that Pat “understood his affairs including Broncos’ succession plan” in 2009, according to Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). Klis writes that Robinson will be the “star” witness in the case, because the “crux of Bill Bowlen’s lawsuit is [Pat] was incapacitated in 2006.”
Renck writes that Bill’s legal team now has 21 days to respond to the motion to move this to NFL arbitration, so we should have more updates soon. Bill will almost certainly oppose the move, as the league office is unlikely to be sympathetic to his arguments in arbitration. Bill and Beth Bowlen Wallace have the same attorneys, and are working together to gain control of the team. It’s a very complex and tangled situation, and it’s anyone’s guess what will end up happening with the team. Ellis has been in control since July of 2014, and there’s no end in sight to the saga.