Attention, Broncos zealots, mediarites and the Bowlen brood and board: Be careful what you wish for, biblical Proverbs and Aesop’s Fables cautioned, because you might get it.
You could be gored by a new owner of the Broncos who is the next Daniel Snyder, James Dolan or Eugene Melnyk — three men you wouldn’t want in possession of an American Cornhole League team.
Robert Frederick Smith, a fourth-generation Coloradan and the son of Denver educators, was raised in a charming home on the north side of East 26th Avenue across from City Park Golf Course. In the evenings Robert and his friends would venture onto the vacated fairway and play football.
They were youthful Broncos fans in the Orange Crush Era.
While as a teenager at East High School, Robert didn’t play sports. Rather, he applied for a summer internship with prestigious Bell Labs. Despite being told that the jobs were intended for college students, Robert persisted for months until finally given an opportunity. He proved to be highly impressive.
Smith eventually would earn a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Cornell and a masters of business administration at Columbia. He has an honorary doctorate from the University of Denver.
He turned 58 Tuesday.
Smith, founder and CEO of Houston-based venture capital company Vista Equity Partners, has, according to Forbes, a 2020 worth of $5.2 billion, is ranked 125th on the magazine’s top 400 rich list and is considered America’s wealthiest African-American.
Smith owns homes from California to Texas to Florida and has business interests in Denver. He and his wife, a former Playboy Playmate, and his four children spent months of the pandemic at the family ranch and resort, Lincoln Hills, near Blackhawk.
When I began more than a year ago researching potential Broncos owners, if the Bowlen Family Feud and the Pat Bowlen trustees decided or were forced to sell, Smith seemed the perfect candidate to take over the franchise and become the first black owner in NFL history.
I reached out to Smith through company representatives, associates, friends and social media to ask if he would be interested in purchasing the Broncos, but he never replied. One close subordinate said: “Mr. Smith doesn’t want to get involved in sports, teams and even the Broncos.’’
Charlie Finley — the late controversial and peculiar, and owner of the Oakland A’s who won three consecutive World Series — told me in the 1970s about owners: “It’s hard to find men who wear sneakers and drive Cadillacs.’’
However, more billionaires have become attracted to ownership of lucrative sports franchise. At least 45 owners in the four major sports are billionaires beyond the value of their franchises.
However, multiple events of 2020 — including financial losses, players protests, political actions, COVID-19 and the lack of fans at stadiums and ballparks — have drastically decreased the magnet for magnates.
I’ve figured out why Robert F. Smith probably hasn’t spoken to me or anyone else about his desirability for owning the Broncos.
A four-year investigation by the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue System of Smith’s taxes resulted in his nonprosecution agreement to a fine of $139 million (for his failure to pay $200 million in taxes hidden in the Caribbean) and cooperation in a case against Robert Brockman, who is accused of concealing $2 billion off-shore. Brockman gave Smith his initial investment to start Vista Equity.
Robert F. Smith is out of bounds.
Beth Bowlen Wallace, the second-oldest of the late Pat Bowlen’s seven children, fired the second-latest hostile salvo in the incessant Bowlen Family Feud Wednesday.
“My sister Amie (Bowlen Klemmer), my uncle John Bowlen and I have had the privilege, along with all fans that bleed orange and blue, of seeing what a winning team looks like. Watching these past few seasons has been extremely painful, and we continue to see no other way to restore the franchise for our fans but through a transition of ownership of the Denver Broncos,’’ Wallace stated in a written press release.
She said her father “would never have accepted the team’s current state.’’
In an immediate following volley, the attorney for Pat Bowlen’s second wife, Annabel Bowlen (not the mother of Wallace and Klemmer), issued this statement: “Ms. Wallace does not represent my client’s views or the views of the majority of the beneficiaries,’’ which include Pat's and Annabel’s five children and an eighth child who is Pat’s daughter with another woman.
A lawsuit filed by Wallace and Klemmer against the trustees has been postponed again — until July 24, 2021.
Who of the Bickering Broncos Bowlen Bunch or an outsider could end up owning the franchise? I will address the future in a Wednesday Gazette column.