Walmart tycoon Rob Walton is poised to make a bid for the Denver Broncos — and is now the favorite to buy the team, despite NFL efforts to court Robert F. Smith, the nation’s richest African-American man, how The Post has learned.
Walton — valued at more than $70 billion according to Forbes — is expected to make a Broncos bid worth more than $4 billion on Friday — the highest price ever paid for a professional sports team, sources said who are close to the situation.
For comparison, hedge fund billionaire David Tepper paid a record NFL price of $2.2 billion for the Carolina Panthers in 2018. Chinese e-commerce mogul Joe Tsai topped that, paying $2.3 billion for the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets in 2019.
The Post broke the news last month that 77-year-old Walton was in the running, which has since been confirmed by several other direct sources.
The Broncos have set Friday as the deadline for opening bids and are only accepting bids greater than $4 billion, said a source who is closely following the situation.
“An offer must be preceded by a four,” according to a source close to the process — and insiders estimate the final sale price will be between $4.5 billion and $5 billion.
As reported by The Post, NFL bigwigs including Commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Smith — a private equity tycoon who famously spent $34 million in 2019 to pay off student loans for the entire senior year of Morehouse College — privately pushed — to become the NFL’s first black team owner.
Goodell has been courting Smith as the League desperately tries to repair its tarnished image on race relations. In February, Brian Flores, the former Miami Dolphins coach, filed a lawsuit against the NFL likening the league to a “plantation” where 70 percent of the players, but none of the owners, are black.
Now, however, sources say opinions are mixed as to whether Smith, 59 – who is also the chairman of Carnegie Hall – will even make an offer.
While Smith was interested in buying the Broncos a month ago, insiders said he’s also been grappling with raising a new $20 billion buyout fund and is facing pressure from investors to commit to concentrate his company Vista Equity Partners.
Meanwhile, insiders said the perception is that Walton, whose cousin Ann is married to Super Bowl champ, Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, will simply outbid all rivals when the Broncos auction is about six weeks away is entering the final round, a source close to the location said.
Indeed, despite Smith’s vast fortune – what Forbes estimates it at $6.7 billion — the Broncos would make for a big bite. League rules require an owner to owe a team no more than $1 billion and deposit at least 33 percent of equity.
That means that even if Smith called in partners to buy the rest of the team, which insiders expect him to do, Smith himself would have to write a check for at least $1 billion.
Josh Harris, co-founder of Apollo Global Management, whose net worth Forbes puts at $5.6 billion and also owns the Philadelphia 76ers, is expected to make a bid for the Broncos.
While Jeff Bezos has been rumored to be kicking the hoops, it’s not clear if he’s still interested, sources said.
The eldest son of the late retail legend Sam Walton, Walton served as chairman of Walmart from 1992 to 2015. His father Sam’s brother, Budd, is Ann Kroenke’s father.
Representatives from Walton, Smith, the NFL and the Broncos did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/08/walmart-heir-to-make-bid-for-denver-broncos-sources/ Walmart legacy bids for Denver Broncos: sources