Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is giving up control of the franchise after acknowledging that he’s been battling Alzheimer’s disease.
The Denver Post first reported that story about Bowlen, who has seen the Broncos make the Super Bowl six times in his 30 years as owner. Denver has won two Super Bowls in that time.
Team president Joe Ellis will assume control of the Broncos as Bowlen focuses on his health, according to the Post.
“It’s a really, really sad day,” Ellis told the newspaper. “It’s sad for his family, his wife and his seven children. It’s sad for everyone in the organization. And it’s sad for all the Bronco fans who know what Pat Bowlen meant to them as an owner. It’s a day nobody wanted to see happen.”
Bowlen’s team ownership is held in a trust, created more than a decade ago, that is overseen by non-family trustees.
“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 said in a statement.
The Denver Post emphasized that the Broncos won’t be put up for sale and that Bowlen hopes one of his seven children will one day run the team.
“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,” Annabel Bowlen said in a statement. “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.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease and it is the sixth-leading cause of death. Bowlen lost his mother, Arvella, after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s, in 2006.
“This is a sad day for the NFL,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement to the Denver Post. “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.”