Peyton Manning May Be Priced Out of a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Peyton Manning couldn’t stay away from the NFL, the business that made the former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback rich and famous. ESPN announced that Manning and brother Eli will anchor 10 alternative Monday Night Football telecasts per season through 2023.

Rather than pure play-by-play and analysis of the game, the so-called “MegaCast” lets the brothers and assorted guests hold running stream-of-consciousness conversations. Not everything will be about what’s taking place on the field.

We have an interesting idea for one conversation right out of the gate: How much money will the Broncos sell for, and will Manning be the guy who orchestrates the winning bid?

The Denver Broncos might be heading for the auction block

Pat Bowlen’s death in 2019 has led to a parade of lawsuits regarding future ownership of the Broncos, operated by Bowlen and his family from 1984 to the time of his passing.

The three-person trust now running the Broncos cleared an important hurdle this month with the dismissal of a lawsuit by Bowlen’s two oldest daughters who challenged the validity of his will. Next, they’ll return to court in September to battle the estate of Edgar Kaiser, the former Broncos owner who died in 2012. Executors of his estate claim a right to match an offer if the team is sold.

The Bowden estate trustees contend the right to match offers for the 60.8% of the team Kaiser formerly owned died once the two principals died, KUSA-TV reported.

The other 39.2% of the Broncos belonged to John Adams and Timothy Borden in 1984, but the Bowden family bought that stake a year later for $20 million. There potentially are issues about a right to match offers on that stake, too, but winning the suit concerning majority ownership would open the door for moving forward with selling the Broncos.

That would constitute a golden opportunity for Peyton Manning or anyone else with an interest in joining the elite group of 32 NFL owners.

The Broncos could fetch a record price for a sports team

Casual observers might assume that the NFL drives record sale prices for American sports franchises. That’s not necessarily the case even though football teams are among the most valuable in the world and appreciate in value at a higher rate than MLB or NBA teams.

According to Forbes, the Dallas Cowboys are North America’s most valuable franchise at $5.7 billion. Though the New York Yankees ($5.25 billion), New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Lakers are next, all owe a chunk of their value to ancillary businesses like TV networks or arena arrangements.

Beginning with the New England Patriots, 19 of the next 25 most valuable teams are NFL franchises. The Broncos are worth $3.2 billion, the magazine reported in May. NFL team owners’ big advantage stems from enormous network television deals and corporate sponsorships.

Tilman Fertitta set the record for a team purchase by buying the NBA’s Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017 before David Tepper bought the NFL’s Carolina Panthers for $2.28 billion the following year. That only lasted until 2019, when Joe Tsai doled out $2.35 billion for basketball’s Brooklyn Nets.

Buying the Broncos will require a lot more.

Peyton Manning could play a role other than owner

The valuations that Forbes cites pose a potential dilemma for owners looking to sell. Few people possess the wealth necessary to buy the Cowboys or Patriots by themselves. Unless Jeff Bezos enters the picture, buying the Broncos may require a partnership. Putting together such consortiums requires one or more of the partners to put aside their ego and allow someone else to be the managing partner and the face of the franchise.

One way to make it work is to put a prominent figure in charge of football operations. John Elway would be a natural for the Broncos because of his long career as a player and executive there. However, Elway was born a generation too soon, and his total salary for 16 seasons was only $45,445,000, according to Spotrac.com. On the other hand, Manning made $248,732,000 and played in an era of bigger endorsement opportunities.

Given the Forbes valuation and the record TV money that’s about to kick in, $3 billion would be a good starting bid for the Broncos. That all but eliminates Manning from being the actual man in charge of the team he led to victory in Super Bowl 50.

Still, Manning could follow the Derek Jeter model and invest just enough to attract investors for the rest. In order to qualify as the managing partner, someone would have to kick in around $1 billion. However, Manning could be the face of the team everywhere except in league ownership meetings as the president in charge of football operations.

And that would certainly give him something to talk about on Monday Night Football.

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