Breaking Down the Walton/Penner Ownership Group: The Five Owners of the Denver Broncos

Breaking Down Walton/Penner

 

The Walton-Penner group seems to remain in the headlines, as they have announced a fifth member.  On July 11th, the Broncos announced that former U.S. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice is a part of the Walton/Penner ownership group as a minority owner of the Denver Broncos. Rice is now the fifth name that has a stake in the Broncos via the Walton/Penner ownership group. Breaking down who exactly is in the Walton/Penner can go a long way for Broncos fans. It will help them understand who is running the franchise and help them understand WHO and WHY those decisions were made. As the ownership group continues to grow, it’s important to know who is coming in and what their background is. 

Currently, these are the five members of the Walton/Penner group. Those who will be making the decisions for the Broncos moving forward.

READ MORE: Broncos Breakout Candidates

Breaking Down the Walton/Penner Group for the Denver Broncos

Condoleezza Rice

Rice has been involved in football since 2013 when she was one of the 13 original College Football playoff committee members. They were in charge of determining the four teams that would compete for the NCAA College Football Championship. Then in 2018, a wild report from Adam Shefter detailed how the Cleveland Browns were considering Rice as a head coaching candidate. This set the football world ablaze considering Rice’s inexperience and just the abnormality of someone with her background considering making the jump directly to the world of NFL head coaching. After Rice shut down those rumors, her next appearance in the football news cycle was when it was announced that she had joined the Walton/Penner ownership group. 

A lifelong Browns fan, seeing what dynamic Rice will bring to the Broncos will be interesting. Rice is familiar with the area, as she moved to Denver at 12, and graduated from the University of Denver in the late 70s with her Bachelor’s and with a Ph.D. in Political Science in the early 80s. Rice had dated Broncos Ring of Famer Rick Upchurch while she lived in Denver, so she has had tied with the Broncos and the city in her past. 

Currently, Rice is a political science professor and the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She is also on the boards of Dropbox and Makena Capital Management, LLC.  If Rice decides she wants to take on a more active role with the franchise, it will be something that will be added to her already busy schedule. Perhaps benefiting from the benefits of investing in an NFL team is a better route for Rice. 

Rice will come with some controversy. She is a divisive figure stemming from her time as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009. The controversy derives from her beliefs and use of torture and her role in the claim of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq post the 9/11 terrorist attacks. How this affects her tenure with the team is yet to be seen. 

Rob Walton

Breaking down the Walton/Penner would not be complete without the name in the headlines. Rob Walton is the catalyst for why the Walmart franchise, proper, now owns an NFL franchise. Walton will be the face of the ownership group as the majority owner and the name in the headlines. Walton reportedly put down a small amount of $1.395 billion as a down payment, about 30% of the total. However, Walton will not be running the day-to-day operations of the team. Walton will fly in and make appearances, but the daily decisions are up to his daughter and son-in-law.

Carrie Walton-Penner and Greg Penner 

That daughter and son-in-law of looking after the Broncos on a day-to-day basis goes to Carrie Walton-Penner and Greg Penner. Walton’s daughter and son-in-law, respectively, will be approving all decisions that might arise before they reach Walton himself. So, any complaints or suggestions are going through them first and they will have the first say in the decisions. Penner and Walton-Penner would also be in direct line to majority ownership when Walton, who is 78 years old, passes. So expect the Broncos to be in the Walton-Penner empire for the long haul. 

Walton-Penner and Penner met while at Georgetown Law School in the late 80s, and early 90s. They have been together since. After initially running Madrone Capital Partners, Walton himself named Penner as chairman and CEO of Walmart. After seeing a stagnant stretch between 2010-2015, Walmart has seen record profits since Penner took over. Walton-Penner has concentrated her work on increasing the number of charter schools around the country. That sort of commitment and passion can potentially help the Broncos stay winning on the field. But more importantly, consistently win on the field. 

Mellody Hobson

Condoleezza Rice is the second Black woman to join the ownership group. The honor of being the first goes to Mellody Hobson, who was part of the original four bidders. Hobson is the name that people forget to mention when talking about the new Broncos owners. That would be a mistake and would underestimate a very powerful entity in corporate America. Hobson is not only the President and co-CEO of Ariel Investments but is also the chair of the Starbucks board. On top of that, impressively, Hobson is also a director of JPMorgan Chase. When you add the title of minority owner of the Broncos, this puts her shoulder-to-shoulder with Walton or anyone else in this group. If not part of her initial plans, expect Hobson to play a big part in Broncos’ marketing and growth. 

Hobson’s experience in the corporate world could benefit the Broncos in expanding its brand, nationally and internationally. The market is now one where they have to not only compete against the Dallas Cowboys but F.C. Barcelona as well. Hobson is a much-needed piece in the future success of the Broncos. She, as accomplished as she is, is half of a very powerful couple. George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, the fan-favorite Sci-Fi franchise, is her husband. Could we see a Lucas sighting at a Broncos game? All Broncos/Star Wars fans hope so. 

There Could Be More 

Rice could be the first of many big names that join the Walton/Penner group. There have been rumblings, even before breaking down Walton/Penner to be the next owners, that they have officially reached out to former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, to join the franchise as an advisor to the owners, with the potential of a future ownership stake in the Broncos. 

Manning could become an unofficial ambassador of the Walton/Penners. The former quarterback could be the face of the owners to a Broncos fanbase who perhaps is not completely sold on Walton. Manning has made Denver home for him and his family since his retirement in 2015. He continues to partner with the franchise, whether it’s in funny social media clips or community work. A fan-favorite player, who has become so entrenched with the franchise, and feels indebted to the franchise would be an excellent addition to the Walton/penner group.

Overall, breaking down the Walton/Penner group is a good exercise to fully understand who is making the decision for the Denver Broncos. If this is the group that leads the Broncos, they have a wealth of experience and knowledge. That combination is something that can keep the Broncos winning for a long time.