NFL: Walmart heir to win bid for Denver Broncos in US$4.5b record deal - Forbes

The Denver Broncos would be the second big-ticket sports franchise to change hands in recent months. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Rob Walton, whose father founded Walmart, will win the bid to buy National Football League (NFL) side the Denver Broncos at a record price of about US$4.5 billion (S$6.2 billion), Forbes reported on Monday (June 6).

Walton's offer exceeds US$4 billion, which would be the highest amount ever paid for an American professional sports team. It would surpass the US$3.3 billion sale of the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Brooklyn Nets to Alibaba Group Holding Inc. co-founder Joe Tsai in 2019 and David Tepper's purchase of the NFL's Carolina Panthers for US$2.3 billion in 2018.

Forbes said the deal could be announced this month.

Second-round bids from interested parties were due on Monday afternoon. ESPN countered the Forbes report, saying a winning bid had not been selected.

Walton, 77, emerged as an early front-runner in a crowded field of contenders vying for the first NFL team up for sale in four years. The Broncos' long-time family owners, the Bowlens, announced in February they were selling the franchise and billionaires quickly began to circle.

Forbes identified other bidders as Josh Harris, who is part of the ownership group of the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers and National Hockey League (NHL) side New Jersey Devils; Jose E. Feliciano, one of the founders of Clearlake Capital; and mortgage lender Mat Ishbia.

Walton, who played football as an undergraduate at the College of Wooster in Ohio, has a net worth of US$65 billion and is the 19th-richest person in the world, according to Forbes. The Walmart fortune is so vast that his siblings, Alice and Jim, also are among the world's 20 richest people on Forbes' list of billionaires.

Combined, the net worth of Harris (US$5.7 billion), Feliciano (US$3.4 billion) and Ishbia (US$4.9 billion) is US$14 billion by Forbes' estimates.

Walton's proposed ownership team also includes his daughter, Carrie, and her husband, Greg Penner.

Forbes valued the Broncos at US$3.75 billion in 2021, estimating it at No. 10 on the list of franchise valuation.

If the Walton sale goes through, Jim Walton would become the second NFL owner from the extended Walton family. Ann Walton Kroenke, who is his cousin, is married to Stan Kroenke, owner of the Los Angeles Rams, the English Premier League's Arsenal FC, the NBA's Denver Nuggets and the NHL's Colorado Avalanche.

The Broncos would be the second big-ticket sports franchise to change hands in recent months.

The EPL's Chelsea FC was sold to American investor Todd Boehly with backing from California-based private equity firm Clearlake Capital for £4.25 billion (S$7.33 billion) last month.

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich had been forced to put the soccer team up for sale after owning it for almost two decades following pressure from sanctions as part of Britain's response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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