Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is relinquishing control of the team as he acknowledges he is dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, reports Mike Klis of The Denver Post.
Team president Joe Ellis will assume control of the Broncos.
“It’s a really, really sad day,” Ellis said. “It’s sad for his family, his wife and his seven children. It’s sad for everyone in the organization. And it’s sad for all the Bronco fans who know what Pat Bowlen meant to them as an owner. It’s a day nobody wanted to see happen.”
Bowlen, 70, has placed his ownership in the Pat Bowlen Trust that is controlled by non-family members. The long-term plan is to have one of his seven children run the team when they’re ready. The Broncos will not be put up for sale.
Bowlen purchased the Broncos in 1984 from Edgar Kaiser. The Broncos reached six Super Bowls, winning back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998 during Bowlen’s 30 years as owner.
“This is a sad day for the NFL,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement to The Denver Post. “Pat Bowlen’s leadership has been critical to the success of the Broncos and the entire NFL. From building a championship team that is a pillar of the community to his important work for the league on television and labor matters, Pat’s love of the game drove him and we have all benefited from his passion and wisdom. But the time has come for Pat to focus on his health and we fully support him. Joe Ellis has been a trusted executive for Pat for many years after working with us at the league office. Joe’s deep experience ensures that the Broncos will continue to have strong leadership.”
Bowlen revealed to The Post in May 2009 that he was experiencing short-term memory loss. But on Tuesday Bowlen and his family acknowledged for the first time that his condition had developed into Alzheimer’s.
“As many in the Denver community and around the National Football League have speculated, my husband, Pat, has very bravely and quietly battled Alzheimer’s disease for the last few years,” Annabel Bowlen said in a statement. “He has elected to keep his condition private because he has strongly believed, and often said, ‘It’s not about me.’
“Pat has always wanted the focus to be solely on the Denver Broncos and the great fans who have supported this team with such passion during his 30 years as owner. My family is deeply saddened that Pat’s health no longer allows him to oversee the Broncos, which has led to this public acknowledgment of such a personal health condition.”
Ellis will oversee the club’s day-to-day operations and John Elway will run the football department.
“No one fills Pat Bowlen’s shoes,” Ellis said. “Everybody in this organization — John Elway, 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.
“Not only is he firm in his commitment to winning, he also wants to make sure people in his organization do things the right way, and sometimes that’s not always the case. But when he saw mistakes, even if they were his own, he recognized them and corrected them quickly. That’s the standard he set. It was clearly defined. It’s easy to see and it’s so easy for all of us to follow. That’s what we’re going to do in the future.”
“In recent years, Denver Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen has taken a reduced role with his team while courageously and privately battling Alzheimer’s disease.
“The Broncos are very saddened that Mr. Bowlen is no longer able to be part of the team’s daily operations due to his condition. We continue to offer our full support, compassion and respect to ‘Mr. B,’ who has faced Alzheimer’s disease with such dignity and strength.
“As Mr. Bowlen focuses on his health, the Broncos have announced changes to their leadership structure that will ensure the long-term stability of the franchise.
“Mr. Bowlen’s ownership of the Broncos is held in a trust—the Pat Bowlen Trust—overseen by non-family trustees with President Joe Ellis continuing to operate the team with full authority on all matters. Plans for this trust were arranged by Mr. Bowlen beginning more than a decade ago as part of his succession plan to keep the Broncos in the Bowlen family.
“Mr. Bowlen’s long-term hope is for one of his children to run the Broncos at the appropriate time, and his succession plan will continue to be implemented by our organization in compliance with NFL ownership policies.
“Ellis, who has worked with Mr. Bowlen for nearly 30 years, also has been named the Broncos’ chief executive officer and adds those responsibilities to his role as team president. He serves as the club’s representation for all league matters.
“Going forward, Pat Bowlen’s indelible contributions to the Broncos, the NFL and this community will continue to define his three decades of ownership and serve as the standard he has set for his franchise.
“With more than 300 victories, including six AFC Championships and back-to-back Super Bowls, Mr. Bowlen has established the culture of winning that is responsible for the Broncos’ sustained success. His work on various league committees has helped the NFL achieve unprecedented prosperity, and his philanthropic generosity has had a positive impact on so many throughout the Rocky Mountain Region.
“The Broncos have the utmost appreciation for Mr. Bowlen and are completely focused on adding to his championship legacy with him in the years ahead.”