It started innocently enough with Jane Elizabeth “Beth” Bowlen Wallace, the 47-year-old daughter of the legendary Denver Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen going public with her desire to keep ownership of the NFL team in the family, and because Mr. Bowlen is ill with Alzheimer’s, and given up control to a family trust. It’s continued with that same trust issuing a statement that can’t be read as anything other than sexist.
Before he stepped down as Broncos CEO, Pat Bowlen established a family trust to transfer controlling ownership of the team to one of his children. The trust is currently operated by three non-family members: team President Joe Ellis, team General Counsel and Executive Vice President Rich Slivka and attorney Mary Kelly. That is the group of people who would craft the response to Beth Bowlen Wallace.
“I love the Denver Broncos,” Beth said. “This team has been so special to my family, to the City of Denver and to the state of Colorado. “My father’s legacy is very important to me and my family. It is my desire to lead this team with the same passion my father did and help the Broncos become Super Bowl champions again. I have the ambition, experience and drive, and my mentor in running a winning NFL franchise is the best in the business – my father.”
To futher her plans, Ms. Bowlen Wallace submitted a proposal for a succession plan to the Trustees of the Pat Bowlen family trust that includes Beth taking over as the Controlling Owner after a short transition and mentoring period with current leadership. The proposal also includes long-term succession planning that involves other Bowlen children and a succession plan beyond Beth. “Along with continuing the winning tradition of my father, the focus is to keep this team in my family and keep the Broncos in Denver,” she said.
Ms. Bowlen Wallace even noted the support of family members in her press release. “I fully support Beth,” said Amie Bowlen Klemmer, the oldest Bowlen child. “She is qualified and ready, and she worked closely with my dad. She is in the best position to carry out his vision. Based on my conversations with him, I know my father would have endorsed Beth and this plan.”
But the trust, in the guise of Mr. Ellis, Mr. Slivka, and Ms. Kelly, responded with a statement that was both shocking in tone, and equally tone-deaft to today’s concern with the advancement of women. The group issued a statement that read in part: ““The statements issued by Beth Bowlen Wallace today are contrary to Pat Bowlen’s long-standing succession plan that he created over many years of careful consideration.
“Pat was determined to ensure the Broncos would remain a premier franchise in the National Football League in the event of his absence. He chose to sustain the team’s success in that eventuality by appointing three non-family trustees to determine whether any of his children had become qualified at some point to step into his shoes.
“Pat did not designate Beth as a trustee or appoint her to a leadership position, nor did he instruct the trustees to specifically mentor her. He made it clear that his children were not automatically entitled to a role with the team and that they would have to earn that opportunity through their accomplishments, qualifications and character.
“As trustees honoring the clear wishes of Pat, we have thoroughly evaluated whether Beth is capable of succeeding her father as controlling owner. We have determined that she is not capable or qualified at this time.
“We have communicated our decision to Beth and her lawyers on multiple occasions. She is also fully informed as to why her employment with the team ended in 2015.
“Although Beth has declined our invitations to discuss her qualifications for the last two years, we will continue to proactively engage and meet with any of the Bowlen children who express a desire to earn the right to succeed their father.”
The trouble witb the statement by the trust is evident by its mean-sprited and sexist tone. Rather intentional or not, the media took the statement and distilled it to “she’s not qualified to run the Broncos as controlling owner.”
If one considers that Oakland Raiders Owner Mark Davis took over as controlling owner of the Silver and Black, and even with lacking the law degree and the kind of position with the team than Beth had with the Broncos, has done extremely well as the manager of the general partnership. Absent presenting the public with what the criteria for ownership are, and considering Mark Davis as the owner of the rival Raiders, the Pat Bowlen Trust’s words have to be considered insulting, biased, and baseless. That’s the view of this author.
In addition to writing that Beth was not qualified to run the Broncos, the Pat Bowlen Trust statement added “We have communicated our decision to Beth and her lawyers on multiple occasions. She is also fully informed as to why her employment with the team ended in 2015.” As if to imply her parting with the Broncos was on bad terms that would leave her unable to be controlling owner. Wow.
And it’s not like Beth doesn’t have her own advocates to be controlling owner beyond the Bowlen family. Take the words of Darren “D-Mac” McKee of 104.3 the Fan in Denver. He tweeted “There has been plenty of time. Beth Bowlen is clearly the most qualified. Move forward. Immediately.”
Agreed. There has been plenty of time. Beth Bowlen is clearly the most qualified. Move forward. Immediately. https://t.co/iKUlRR881Q
— Darren McKee (@dmac1043) November 27, 2017
And Broncos Blogger Jesse Schaffer added this “These types of things are always complicated, but I believe that Beth would honor Pat’s legacy and be the best possible choice to lead the Broncos for the foreseeable future. I don’t know when (or if) that will actually come to pass. I just know that it should, and as soon as possible.”
Obviously, there’s something wrong between the current management of the Pat Bowlen Trust and Beth Bowlen Wallace. Since Brocos fans like Darren “D-Mac” McKee and Jesse Schaffer are ready for Beth to run the team, and have been for years, why can’t Joe Eliis and the Pat Bowlen Trust fall in line? It’s time for women to run sports teams, and Beth Bowlen Wallace has been ready to do it for years. Times’ up.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media