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Amid settlement speculation, July 12 trial in Broncos ownership fight is delayed

After Kareem Jackson reveals that Deshaun Watson is interested in heading to Denver, Mike Florio and Chris Simms examine how this could strengthen the Broncos and weigh how likely teams are to trade this season.

The legal fight among members of the Bowlen family and the three trustees managing the Denver Broncos was due to come to a head on July 12. It now won’t happen then. It may not happen ever.

Via the Denver Post, the presiding judge signed an order, jointly proposed by the parties, staying the proceedings indefinitely.

It’s unclear what any of it means, beyond the obvious reality that there won’t be a trial in the lawsuit that was filed by two of Pat Bowlen’s children (Amie Klemmer and Beth Bowlen Wallace) and that seeks the removal of the trustees who have managed the Broncos for years. The trustees have the objective of (among other things) eventually selecting one of Bowlen’s children to serve as the principal owner of the team. The lawsuit that was due to go to trial on July 12 argues that Pat Bowlen did not have legal capacity to form the trust and was unduly influenced by the trustees.

The trustees targeted Brittany Bowlen as the preferred choice to run the team several years ago. However, Broncos executive Joe Ellis (who serves as one of the three trustees) has said that all seven of Pat Bowlen’s children must unanimously consent to the appointment. The ongoing legal squabbles of the past few years strongly suggest that reaching a consensus will be highly unlikely.

Whatever the reason for the decision to pull the plug on the trial, no one is talking about the situation, on or off the record. This strongly suggests that the lawyers have given all parties a clear mandate to say nothing as whatever is being discussed among the various family members and their counsel as the process apparently moves toward some sort of resolution.

It’s too early to know what the resolution will be. One possibility would be that the family simply puts the team on the market, maximizing the financial recovery that would flow to each of them. Per the Post, the seven Bowlen children will hold 11 percent of the team following the passing of Annabel Bowlen, who disclosed three years ago that, like her late husband, she is battling Alzheimer’s disease.

Another potential solution would entail some of the Bowlen children, led by Brittany, purchasing the interest of those who oppose Brittany’s appointment as the principal owner. Last year, the Commissioner helped spur a similar transaction to settle a long-simmering ownership issue among the children of Titans founder Bud Adams, whose estate divided ownership among the families of his three children but did not give control to any one person. Two of the three siblings bought out the other one.

Whatever happens, the monetary stakes are high and constantly getting higher. Legalized gambling will cause the value of NFL franchises to mushroom in the coming years. Whether an outsider will be buying it all or a family transaction will occur to remove from the equation those who oppose Brittany Bowlen assuming control or some other outcome will be fashioned, the dollars involved will not be insignificant. As time passes, those numbers will only get larger and larger.