DENVER (CBS4) – The Denver Broncos have confirmed to CBS4 that Pat Bowlen has resigned control of the team due to his battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
In a statement, the team says Bowlen, 70, has struggled with the disease for several years and that he is no longer able to be involved in the daily operations of the team.
Team president Joe Ellis has now been given the additional role of CEO of the team as part of a succession plan Bowlen arranged many years ago.
“It’s difficult to sit in front of you today and talk about this,” said Ellis at a news conference from Dove Valley. “Pat wants us to do two things; he wants the organization to do two things. He wants us to win. He’s always wanted that and he’ll continue to want that. And he’s always wanted everybody here to do things the right way.
“It’s the end of an era,” said CBS4 Broncos Insider Vic Lombardi. “For anybody who doesn’t understand how vital it is to have great leadership at the top, they don’t understand pro sports.”
The Broncos statement says Bowlen is hoping at some point in the future for one of his children to run the Broncos organization.
According to the statement, Bowlen had taken a reduced role with the team in recent years “while courageously and privately battling Alzheimer’s disease.”
The Bowlen family bought the Broncos from Edgar Kaiser in 1984. During his years as owner/CEO of the team the Broncos won two Super Bowls in the late 1990s.
Broncos General Manager and Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway broke down several times as he was overcome with emotion while talking about Bowlen during a news conference from Dove Valley.
“This place will never be the same,” said Elway. “At least from the inside out, it will never be the same.
“He has, he’s given me so much, as a player, to be able to play, for him. And as I said when I retired, as a player all you want is an opportunity to be the best and compete for world championships. As a player that’s what Pat Bowlen has given us.”
Elway has been very close to Bowlen for 30 years both on the field and off the field. Elway had been with the Broncos for one season when Bowlen bought the team.
“It’s a sad, sad day. Pat has been a mentor, he has been somebody that I looked up to. And I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today if it wasn’t for Pat Bowlen,” said Elway.
Broncos Head Coach John Fox was selected to be the 14th head coach of the Denver Broncos. Fox said he knew a lot about Bowlen before he even met him.
“When you look around Pat Bowlen is the owner but I don’t think there is any mark on this organization that doesn’t have his name on it, just look around some of the things that he’s changed and adjusted,” said Broncos Head Coach John Fox. “I knew about his success long before I got here and he met all my expectations for sure and then some.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Wednesday that it was a “sad day for the NFL.”
“Pat Bowlen’s leadership has been critical to the success of the Broncos and the entire NFL. 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. But the time has come for Pat to focus on his health and we fully support him. Joe Ellis has been a trusted executive for Pat for many years after working with us at the league office. Joe’s deep experience ensures that the Broncos will continue to have strong leadership,” Goodell said.
The Denver Broncos report for training camp on Wednesday.
“Pat Bowlen has been one of the best owners in all of sports. Thirty years with this team. He bought the team in 1984 and he’s seen them win over 300 games, he’s seen them attend countless Super Bowls and he has really led them to the level where they are today. He is a competitive man. And through that competition and his competitive nature is why the Broncos are as successful as they are today,” said Lombardi.
“Really went out of his way to ensure that his team and his players and his coaches had the best means to win and that’s very important. When your players know that the owner is going to do whatever it takes to win a game then it’s that much easier to get it done,” said Lombardi. “The Denver Broncos have been known for one thing over the last three decades and that is a commitment to winning. That comes from Pat Bowlen.”
Here is the statement released by the Denver Broncos:
“In recent years, Denver Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen has taken a reduced role with his team while courageously and privately battling Alzheimer’s disease.
“The Broncos are very saddened that Mr. Bowlen is no longer able to be part of the team’s daily operations due to his condition. We continue to offer our full support, compassion and respect to ‘Mr. B,’ who has faced Alzheimer’s disease with such dignity and strength.
“As Mr. Bowlen focuses on his health, the Broncos have announced changes to their leadership structure that will ensure the long-term stability of the franchise.
BRETT HEINZERLING: ‘This One’s For Pat’
“Mr. Bowlen’s ownership of the Broncos is held in a trust—the Pat Bowlen Trust—overseen by non-family trustees with President Joe Ellis continuing to operate the team with full authority on all matters. Plans for this trust were arranged by Mr. Bowlen beginning more than a decade ago as part of his succession plan to keep the Broncos in the Bowlen family.
“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.
“Ellis, who has worked with Mr. Bowlen for nearly 30 years, also has been named the Broncos’ chief executive officer and adds those responsibilities to his role as team president. He serves as the club’s representation for all league matters.
“Going forward, Pat Bowlen’s indelible contributions to the Broncos, the NFL and this community will continue to define his three decades of ownership and serve as the standard he has set for his franchise.
“With more than 300 victories, including six AFC Championships and back-to-back Super Bowls, Mr. Bowlen has established the culture of winning that is responsible for the Broncos’ sustained success. His work on various league committees has helped the NFL achieve unprecedented prosperity, and his philanthropic generosity has had a positive impact on so many throughout the Rocky Mountain Region.
“The Broncos have the utmost appreciation for Mr. Bowlen and are completely focused on adding to his championship legacy with him in the years ahead.”
Annabel Bowlen, Pat’s wife, released this statement Wednesday morning: “As many in the Denver community and around the National Football League have speculated, my husband, Pat, has very bravely and quietly battled Alzheimer’s disease for the last few years. He has elected to keep his condition private because he has strongly believed, and often said, ‘It’s not about me.’
“Pat has always wanted the focus to be solely on the Denver Broncos and the great fans who have supported this team with such passion during his 30 years as owner. My family is deeply saddened that Pat’s health no longer allows him to oversee the Broncos, which has led to this public acknowledgment of such a personal health condition.
“Alzheimer’s has taken so much from Pat, but it will never take away his love for the Denver Broncos and his sincere appreciation for the fans.
“My family will stand strong with Pat as he continues his courageous fight against a disease that is unfortunately all too common. One in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s, and my family is experiencing the same difficult emotions that so many have felt when someone they love and respect is afflicted with this condition.’
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