Court ruling clears path for sale of Denver Broncos franchise 

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have cleared their final legal hurdle to begin the process of transferring ownership of the team, likely through a sale of the franchise valued at nearly $4 billion.

Denver County District Court Judge Shelley I. Gilman ruled Tuesday that a right of first refusal agreement between late owners Pat Bowlen and Edgar Kaiser "is no longer valid or enforceable in any respect" and "has terminated in its entirety."

"We're glad to put this issue behind us and move closer to transitioning ownership of the Denver Broncos," team president and CEO Joe Ellis said in a statement. "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."

General manager George Paton has sought permission to speak with a half dozen candidates to replace Vic Fangio, whom he fired Sunday morning following Denver's 7-10 finish that gave him a 19-30 record in three seasons.

The Broncos haven't reached the playoffs since winning Super Bowl 50 six years ago and they've churned through 10 starting quarterbacks since Peyton Manning's retirement following that 2015 championship season.

Pat Bowlen died in 2019, a month shy of his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, following a long bout with Alzheimer's. Several years earlier he had appointed a three-person trust to determine the future of the franchise.

Two daughters from Bowlen's first marriage withdrew a lawsuit in July that contested Bowlen's will, appearing to pave the way for a sale. Later that month, Ellis said he hoped to have the long-running ownership saga settled by the start of the 2022 season.

The team's parent companies, however, had to first go to court in September to ask the judge to rule that Kaiser's estate no longer had the right of first refusal to any potential sale of the franchise, which Forbes valued at $3.75 billion.

That trial, which lasted a week, pitted the partnership which owns the Broncos and the Vancouver-based ROFR Holdings. The judge reviewed arguments over the past two months before issuing her ruling Tuesday.

"We are very pleased with the court's order today terminating any right of first refusal," team lawyer Dan Reilly said. "The trustees will continue moving forward with the ownership transition process."

Copyright Associated Press 2022