ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Pat Bowlen Trust awaits NFL arbitration regarding Owner Pat Bowlen’s succession plan, President and CEO Joe Ellis reminded the media Monday of a conversation he had with Bowlen many years ago.
“I think I’ll clarify something, because I know the ownership question keeps coming up and it’s important to people and you want an outcome of some kind and it looks messy and I understand that,” Ellis said Monday at his end-of-season press conference. “A long time ago — well before Pat got ill and was taken down with Alzheimer’s — he talked to me about his succession plan, and he asked me to help him with that and serve in a role in the event that he decided to retire or was somehow no longer here or was incapacitated or whatever the case may be. He wasn’t planning on that, by the way, at the time. But when he asked me to do that, I took that on as a pretty large responsibility. I was humbled by that. He laid out his plan, and I’ve told you all what that plan was.
“We’re going to follow Pat’s plan. We’re not going to follow anyone else’s plan. We’re going to follow Pat’s plan. That’s what I’m here to do, that’s what I’m here to carry out. I know exactly what he told me. In terms of squabbles and where we are in the courts, I would’ve rather not seen that. It’s disappointing, but it’s here.”
Ellis said he and the rest of the Pat Bowlen Trust view the conflict surrounding a future ownership transition as an ownership dispute, which can be resolved by the NFL.
“Given that we filed for arbitration, that’s our preference now,” Ellis said. “We view this as an ownership dispute. Obviously that’s what we filed with the league. It falls under, in our minds and our attorney’s minds, falls into the category of an ownership dispute. The league has in its constitution and bylaws gives us the ability to put this in front of them.”
In the meantime, Ellis said he and the trust will continue to abide by Bowlen’s wishes, no matter the timetable.
“I’d love to speed it up and put it on fast forward, but we’re going to take the time, and I’m going to take the time to ensure that we have the right person and that he or she is ready to do the job,” Ellis said. “It’s a big job, and it’s an important job. And it’s not just important to the family or to people here, it’s important to the community, to the fan base, to the NFL, to Pat’s partners. It’s a big, big job and it bears a lot of responsibility. We will be very careful and deliberate and diligent in our decision process to make sure that the right person is put in place.”
Asked specifically about Brittany Bowlen — one of Pat Bowlen’s daughters — and if she could assume a future role with the team, Ellis said he and the trust will not rush that process, either.
“As I said back in July, she finished her MBA at Duke and is now working for McKinsey [& Company], a terrific global consulting firm,” Ellis said. “She’s working really hard. I’ve seen her and talked to her about that. It’s 80 hours a week — a tremendous experience traveling all over the country working on different business case studies and things. It’s really great experience. There’s going to be a role for her, [but] we don’t know when that will be. That’s going to be sort of on her timetable as well as [based] on our conversations with her. She’s taken a lot of good steps here moving forward.”
As the Broncos head into the offseason, though, President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said he had little concern that the ownership situation would affect the team’s coaching search or on-field product.
“As far as the trust and everything, like I said, I really believe that's going to get straightened [out],” Elway said. “It's a great family and in the long run, I think that they all understand what the Denver Broncos mean, what the Denver Broncos mean to this region and their love for their father and how they want it to look. That's why I think in the long run and eventually, once we get through this period, that this will be the least of our concerns."