An interesting figure we’ve seen pop up in sports media news a few times in the past few years is Byron Allen, the comedian turned producer turned TV magnate who founded and owns Entertainment Studios (whose portfolio includes ownership of The Weather Channel, ownership of 23 local stations, and distribution rights to a lot of shows.). Notably, Allen is a minority investor in the Diamond Sports Group (majority owned by Sinclair) that bought the former Fox regional sports networks from Disney in 2019. And now, he’s making a play to become the majority owner of the NFL’s Denver Broncos, as per Kamaron Leach of Bloomberg:
Media mogul Byron Allen is preparing a bid for the Denver Broncos, a move that if successful would make him the first Black majority owner of a National Football League team.
“NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft came to me in November of 2019 and asked me to take a good look at buying an NFL team,” Allen, chairman and chief executive officer at Allen Media Group, said in a statement in response to inquiries about his interest in the Broncos.
“And after serious consideration, I strongly believe I can help effectuate positive changes throughout the league,” Allen said in a statement. “And for that reason, I will be making a bid for the Denver Broncos.”
Both Allen and the Broncos are working with bankers, with the football team choosing the boutique investment bank Allen & Co., to facilitate a transaction, according to a person familiar with the situation. The investor group led by Allen could pay $3 billion to $4 billion for the Broncos, the person said, asking not to be identified because the information was private.
The Broncos have been officially for sale since last month, when a judge ruled that the estate of former owner Edward Kaiser no longer possessed the right of first refusal agreed to in Kaiser’s 1984 sale of the team to Pat Bowlen. That cleared the way for Bowlen’s trust to sell the team. As per Mike Klis of 9 News, the process is expected to identify around 10 bidders worth further examination by March or early April, have them sign non-disclosure agreements, then move on to a second round of bidding and then pick a winner. So there’s certainly no guarantee that Allen will actually even make it to the final round here. Leach’s article also discusses that Allen would look to put together a group here, and that that group could provide up to 75 percent of the purchase in liquid assets, which is certainly appealing; however, as he notes, to date, the NFL has required the majority owner to hold at least 30 percent of the team, so this would have to be a very Allen-led effort to have much of a chance.
At this point, it’s certainly not assured that Allen’s offer will advance to the final stages. However, it is notable that his statement here included discussion of him previously being approached by Goodell and Kraft, which would certainly seemingly go a long way towards making this go smoothly on the NFL side. And it would be a very good look indeed for the NFL to bring in their first-ever Black majority owner, especially while they’re being sued by a Black former head coach over discrimination in hiring (with the Broncos one of the teams specifically mentioned there).
We’ll see if this deal actually comes to fruition. There will definitely be a lot of other bidders for the Broncos. But Allen has significant resources, and his comments that “I strongly believe I can help effectuate positive changes throughout the league” should not be written off. It’s not guaranteed that he gets the team, but there’s certainly some appeal to the idea of him landing it, maybe especially from the NFL side. And if he does get that team, he might be in a position to at least start some of that change he’s talking about in his statement.