John Elway is a legend in NFL history after playing his entire 16-year career in the league with the Denver Broncos. However, there was an opportunity nearly 25 years ago the all-time great quarterback passed up.
Then-Broncos owner Pat Bowlen offered Elway in September 1998 a 10 percent share of the franchise in exchange for the money they owed the quarterback, which was $21 million.
Bowlen added to the deal another 10 percent of the Broncos for $15 million. In January 1998, the Broncos won Super Bowl 32 over the Green Bay Packers. Bowlen also, with all intents and purposes, made the offer nearly impossible to reject, stating he would purchase the piece back for five million more, along with eight percent interest a year up to five years later.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer would have 10 months to make a decision before the option went away. The quarterback remained focused on leading Denver, winning another Lombardi Trophy in January 1999 and then calling it a career in May of that year. His retirement would have allowed him to go after the deal offered by Bowlen.
Yet, the quarterback would say later on that he didn’t envision himself as an executive for the Broncos. As a result, the offer didn’t make much sense to him and, in June 1999, the legendary quarterback passed on the offer.
The Outcome of Elway’s Rejection of Bowlen’s Offer
Fast forward to this year, it was reported that Walmart heir Rob Walton had won the Broncos bid and would be paying $4.5 billion for the franchise. While the news of the sale is a tad premature, the $4.5 billion bid by Walton would be a record sale for an American franchise.
For the Broncos legend, the $4.5 billion price, his 20 percent share that he could have gotten for $36 million 23 years ago would be worth over $900 million today, a 1,330 percent return, factoring in inflation.
The quarterback also gave up the right of first refusal to purchase the rest of the Broncos. He worked in the Broncos' front office from 2011 – 2020 as the team won the Super Bowl in the 2013 season.
While Elway isn’t doing all that badly financially with a net worth of $145 million, it seems that the matter of what could’ve have been as the sale of the team is near its completion.
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