DENVER — A high stakes trial that could have determined the next Broncos owner has been vacated, according to multiple sources.
In December, an Arapahoe County judge set a July 12 date for the lawsuit Beth Bowlen Wallace and her sister, Amie Klemmer, filed against the three-person trust of President/CEO Joe Ellis, team counsel Rich Slivka and Denver attorney Mary Kelly regarding the mental capacity of late owner Pat Bowlen when amendments were made over the years. The trial was previously postponed.
Tuesday, it was vacated after a joint motion from both sides. In some instances, this means the parties could be pursuing a settlement. The team, a lawyer representing a beneficiary of the trust and Bowlen Wallace all had no comment when reached by Denver7.
After the July 12 court date was originally established, Bowlen Wallace issued a statement to Denver7 in December, suggesting the best path forward was to sell the team since her father would not have approved of the state of the franchise, and it appeared unlikely the Bowlen children would agree on a sibling to run the business. She called for a "smooth and timely transition."
The trust was empowered in 2009 as a way to decide who would succeed Bowlen should he die or become incapacitated. He stepped down from ownership in 2014 because of Alzheimer’s disease and died on June 13, 2019. The trustees — whom Bowlen Wallace and Klemmer, along with their uncle, have tried to remove — have argued that the late Bowlen was mentally aware of what he was doing when signing the documents in 2009.
In the past, Ellis has said that a sale could potentially happen if there is not agreement among the siblings, especially in the eyes of the league.
“[I]t is an option, and we’ve told the beneficiaries that, because if Brittany [Bowlen] were to succeed and take over for her father, everybody else is going to have to sign off on that, most likely,” Ellis said. “That may not be a requirement, but it’s going to be necessary, I think, moving forward from a trustee viewpoint. That’s why a sale remains a possibility I think — given the circumstances we’re in."
A public trial of this magnitude could have been messy as the sides presented their cases, airing potentially sensitive information. That's the last thing the NFL would have preferred in this saga, which has played out over several years. Bowlen Wallace said in 2018 she would like to be the controlling owner, and Brittany Bowlen has also shown a clear desire to secure the role.
Brittany Bowlen is considered the favorite of the trust as she currently works for the team and helped the franchise navigate COVID-19 issues in returning fans to Empower Field at Mile High last season. Bowlen was promoted in April to Senior Vice President of Strategy. While reporting directly to Ellis, she leads senior staff meetings and maintains offices at the stadium and UCHealth Training Center.