Pat Bowlen Steps Away From Broncos to Tackle Alzheimer’s Disease

Bowlen Took Team To Several Super Bowls

Pat Bowlen, one of the NFL’s longest serving and most successful owners, relinquished control of the Denver Broncos because of his continuing battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Joe Ellis, the longtime team president, will run the team and become chief executive. He will have “full authority on all matters,” the team said in a statement. The team was put in a family trust as part of a plan that may ultimately cede control to one of Bowlen’s children.

Pat Bowlen Alzheimer's disease

“Mr. Bowlen’s long-term hope is for one of his children to run the Broncos at the appropriate time, and his succession plan will continue to be implemented by our organization in compliance with NFL ownership policies,” the team added in its statement.

Bowlen, 70, had been reducing his role with the team, though he was still a member of the NFL’s powerful broadcasting committee.

“This is a sad day for the NFL,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “From building a championship team that is a pillar of the community to his important work for the league on television and labor matters, Pat’s love of the game drove him and we have all benefited from his passion and wisdom.”

During his three decades as owner, Bowlen has built one of the league’s strongest franchises. He is the first owner to accumulate 300 victories in his first 30 seasons, during which time the Broncos won six American Football Conference titles. The team won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998. John Elway, the quarterback of those teams, is now in charge of football operations for the Broncos.

According to Forbes, the Broncos franchise is worth $1.16 billion, making it the 13th most valuable one in the league. The Broncos have sold out their home games for 44 consecutive seasons, and the addition of quarterback Peyton Manning two seasons ago has helped boost sponsorships, too.

The Broncos’ current success is a far cry from the team’s early years as an inaugural member of the A.F.L. It took the team 14 seasons to finish with a winning record. Bowlen, who made his money in oil, natural gas and real estate, bought 61 percent of the team in 1984 from Edgar F. Kaiser Jr. The Broncos returned to the Super Bowl for the second time in club history two seasons later.

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Bowlen Tackles Alzheimer’s Disease

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