Billionaire Robert F. Smith’s team downplays report he’s looking to buy the Denver Broncos

SCOOP: "It's just not accurate," a source familiar with the matter tells theGrio

Loading the player...

Pursuing ownership of the Denver Broncos isn’t something on the radar of billionaire Robert F. Smith at the moment, according to a source familiar with the matter who spoke with theGrio Friday.

Front Office Sports broke the news on Friday that the Vista Equity Partners founder and chief executive — who Forbes estimates has a $6 billion net worth, making him the wealthiest Black man in America — may be one of the bidders vying to acquire the NFL franchise.

The Colorado team is expected to go on sale in the near future.

Robert F. Smith reparations, corporations thegrio.com
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Chair of the Board Robert F. Smith speaks onstage during the 2019 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple Of Hope Awards on Dec. 12, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights )

“It’s just not accurate,” the source said regarding the Front Office Sports report on Smith, declining to comment further on the record.

Smith made national headlines in 2019 when he promised to pay off the student loan debt of the entire graduating class at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

The source who spoke with theGrio acknowledged Smith is a Denver native and a Broncos fan who certainly seems like an ideal choice to become the first Black majority owner of an NFL team in a league where 70% of the players were Black in 2018, according to Quartz, but none of the other owners are.

The source close to Smith said his current list of priorities include fighting for voting rights and economic justice, but not owning a team. Smith is also focused on helping underserved communities gain access to capital, healthcare and education in addition to the ballot box, the source said.

Denver Broncos Introduce Peyton Manning
Former Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen speaks during a March 20, 2012 news conference at the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre in Englewood, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Speculation that Smith could become the next Broncos owner began in 2019 after the team’s previous owner, Pat Bowlen, died at age 75 following a lengthy bout with Alzheimer’s disease, the Denver Post reported.

Bowlen gave up control of the Broncos in 2014 after receiving his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, according to the Denver Post and USA Today. He also appointed a three-person trust, known as the Pat Bowlen Trust, to determine which of his seven children would take over as lead owner of the Broncos, according to the Associated Press.

A years-long battle for control of the team ensued between Bowlen’s heirs.

In September 2019, two of his daughters filed a lawsuit arguing their father’s trust shouldn’t be allowed to decide who takes over as lead owner of the Broncos because he lacked the mental capacity to create his trust when he signed papers doing so years ago, Denver ABC reported.

Peyton Manning looks on during a Ring of Honor induction ceremony at halftime of the game between the Washington Football Team and Denver Broncos at Empower Field At Mile High on Oct. 31, 2021 in Denver. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

In September, the Broncos’ parent company asked a judge to rule that the estates of Bowlen and previous team owner, Edgar Kaiser Jr., no longer had right of first refusal to a potential sale of the franchise, according to the AP.

Kaiser Jr. died in 2012, the New York Times reported, about 28 years after he sold the team to Bowlen.

A Denver County district court judge ruled in the Broncos parent company’s favor on Jan. 11, clearing the way for a potential sale.

Broncos team president and CEO Joe Ellis told KUSA on Jan. 13 that the franchise will make an announcement regarding its ownership after it hires a new head coach. The team fired former head coach Vic Fangio on Jan. 9 after a lackluster 2021 season, according to ESPN.

In August, Forbes estimated the Broncos franchise value to be about $3.75 billion. Jay-Z, Jeff Bezos, Peyton Manning and John Elway have all been mentioned as unconfirmed potential suitors looking to buy the Broncos in addition to Smith.

Bezos isn’t interested, according to an October report from Pro Football Talk sports writer Peter King.

Have you subscribed to theGrio podcasts, Dear Culture or Acting Up? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!

Loading the player...