New Broncos’ Owner Sends Message to GM George Paton, HC Nathaniel Hackett
The Denver Broncos are officially under new ownership as the sale of the team to the Walton/Penner Group was consummated on Tuesday after NFL owners voted to approve the record $4.65 billion sale.
After the NFL meetings in Minnesota, new owner Rob Walton (an heir to the Walmart family empire), shared a few remarks and answered a few questions from the media alongside commissioner Roger Goodell and his daughter and son in law, Karrie Walton-Penner and Greg Penner. It didn’t take long for Walton to be asked about his confidence level in Broncos’ GM George Paton and new head coach Nathaniel Hackett.
“We couldn’t be happier with both the coach and our general manager,” Walton said. “As we looked at this from the early days, we thought we might get here without a coach and without a quarterback—and [with] a new general manager. Joe Ellis and the Trustees, and George [Paton], came up with an outstanding coach, I think, in Nathaniel. They’ll have to perform, but we think we’ve got the pieces to fit together and have a great season. We’re very excited.”
Neither the GM nor coach was hand-picked by Walton, so the Paton/Hackett ticket will have to deliver the goods in what is the ultimate production-based business. If Paton’s blockbuster acquisition of Russell Wilson is a harbinger of what’s to come, I doubt he or Hackett will be found wanting in the performance category come season’s end.
Walton also took the time to thank Joe Ellis, revealing that Pat Bowlen’s long-time lieutenant and Broncos’ CEO, will be staying on with the team in a consulting role for the next year. Ellis will no longer serve as CEO or team president, though.
“We want to thank Joe Ellis for his guidance throughout this process and his willingness to serve as an advisor to ownership for this season,” Walton wrote in a statement released by the team.
Walton also wrote that he and his ownership group would “learn and listen” as they transition into this new role and also about the responsibility of stewarding such an “iconic” franchise as the Broncos.
“It’s a responsibility and privilege to serve as stewards of such an iconic franchise. We have tremendous respect for what Pat Bowlen has meant to the Broncos and look forward to building on this organization’s championship legacy.
“While we’re deeply committed to fielding a great team to win Super Bowls, our family and extraordinary partners are also dedicated to our off-the-field responsibilities to Broncos Country and the Rocky Mountain region.
“Operating with integrity and accountability, we aim to draw on our individual strengths and those of the players, coaches and staff who have shaped the Broncos’ storied history. And to that end, we want to thank Joe Ellis for his guidance throughout this process and his willingness to serve as an advisor to ownership for this season.
“Across the entire organization, we will all continue to listen and learn.
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“Most importantly, we will strive to make the Denver Broncos the best team to cheer for, play for and work for in all of sports. Go Broncos!”
For his part, Ellis also released a statement, thanking Broncos Country for its loyalty and dedication throughout the post-Pat Bowlen depredations of the past six years.
“As I step down as President & CEO, it has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to be part of the Denver Broncos for 27 seasons. I am forever thankful to our dedicated staff, the players and coaches for making this franchise what it has become today—one of the best organizations in all of sports.
“There are no words to express the gratitude I have toward Pat Bowlen for his trust, friendship and the responsibility to serve the Broncos and this community for nearly three decades. Pat’s legacy of winning, doing things the right way and giving back is unmatched. He is a Pro Football Hall of Famer in every sense for what he has meant to this organization and the National Football League.
“To Broncos Country: From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Your passion and loyalty, especially through the challenges we’ve faced over the last few years, are what make the Broncos so special. You are truly the best fans in the NFL and deserve many, many more Super Bowls.”
Ellis also confirmed his new “advisory” role with the Broncos as he no longer serves as CEO and team president.
“Looking ahead, I am confident the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group will add to the Broncos’ championship tradition on and off the field while putting their own stamp on this great organization,” Ellis wrote via statement. “I was asked by them to serve as an advisor to ownership for this season, and I’ve accepted their request to help in the transition however possible.”
What comes next for the Broncos’ new ownership? For now, it won’t be a new stadium as Penner pumped the brakes on Tuesday on any notion of ownership looking to upgrade Denver’s “world-class” facility downtown.
Mostly, it’s about the day-to-day process of settling into the new environs at Broncos HQ and watching how the team takes shape on the practice fields of UCHealth Training Center. The Broncos will host the Dallas Cowboys later this week for a pair of joint practice sessions ahead of the two teams’ preseason game on Saturday night.
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The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.