Skip to main content

Denver Broncos | News

Sacco Sez: The history of Broncos owners


One of the hot topics at the NFL Annual Meeting this past week was the sale of the Broncos.

Speculation has it that this might occur by the regular season this year, and regardless, it is a huge item for Broncos Country.

But when it happens, it will not be the first for the Denver Broncos. Nor will it be the second. Nor the third.

Specifically, this will mark the sixth owner or ownership group in team history.

Everyone knows that Pro Football Hall of Famer Pat Bowlen owned the team for close to 40 years, but there were four others before Pat.

The first owner of the Broncos was Bob Howsam, who founded the team. Howsam then sold it to a group of Denver businessmen after a 4-9-1 first year. That group included future owner Gerald H. Phipps and local businessman Cal Kunz.

But that wretched first year would be repeated often in Denver, and by 1965 the owners had reached their limit.

They were about to sell the franchise to an Atlanta group, but the team was saved, quite literally, by Gerry Phipps. He excused himself from their board meeting, walked across the street to a local bank, borrowed the necessary funds, and went back to the meeting and bought out the others. It was Valentine's Day in 1965 when Gerry called the Atlanta people to say there was no deal in Denver.

Put very simply: No Gerry Phipps, no Broncos — which were almost the exact words Mr. B used when he put Gerry in the Ring of Fame.

Later, in 1981, he eventually did sell the team to Edgar F. Kaiser Jr. Kaiser was the grandson of Henry Kaiser, who founded one company that helped build the Hoover Dam and owned the shipyards that could produce a ship a week during World War II.

Kaiser then sold the team to Pat Bowlen in 1984, after first making the greatest single trade in team history by bringing John Elway to Denver. And with all the respect possible for Russell Wilson, bringing John Elway here changed the dynamic of the entire city and state.

Pat Bowlen's accomplishments as owner of the Broncos are well documented, and now the team moves forward once again.

As current team president Joe Ellis said at the annual meeting, it is time for the Broncos to have new ownership.

What will it bring? Excitement, for sure, just as the ownership changes above did.

But beyond that, who can say? All we know is it won't be the first time.

Related Content