By Devon Pendleton, Heather Perlberg and Gillian Tan, Bloomberg
Rob Walton, the eldest son of Walmart Inc. founder Sam Walton, is planning a bid for the National Football League’s Denver Broncos, according to people familiar with the process.
A former chairman of the world’s largest retailer, Walton, 77, is the 17th-richest person on Earth with a net worth of $68.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
A Walmart spokesman declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the Broncos. A representative for Madrone Capital Partners, the Menlo Park, California-based investment firm that manages part of Rob Walton’s fortune, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
An NFL team would be an unusually high-profile purchase for one of the Waltons, whose family has historically avoided flashy assets in keeping with patriarch Sam’s legendary thrift. The family’s vast fortune — estimated at more than $230 billion — is increasingly showing up though in investments in stocks, private equity and hedge funds.
In addition to Madrone, which was founded by Rob Walton’s son-in-law and current Walmart Chairman Greg Penner, the family deploys money through family office Walton Enterprises and WIT LLC, an investment firm with $4.5 billion in U.S. equities.
The New York Post earlier reported Rob Walton’s plans to bid for the Broncos.
If Rob Walton proceeds, he’ll join a crowded field that includes Clearlake Capital Group co-founders Behdad Eghbali and Jose Feliciano, and Feliciano’s wife Kwanza Jones. Josh Harris, co-founder of Apollo Global Management Inc., is considering his options, while Alec Gores, Dean Metropoulos and Mat Ishbia also are exploring an offer, people familiar with the situation have said.
Media mogul Byron Allen is the only person to publicly declare he’s preparing to bid for the Broncos, which went up for sale in February. An investor group led by Allen could pay $3 billion to $4 billion, Bloomberg News has reported. If successful, it would make him the first Black majority owner of an NFL team. The Clearlake group would also bring diversity to the NFL: Eghbali was born in Iran, Feliciano in Puerto Rico and Jones is Black.
The Broncos are a rare opportunity to buy a team in the most popular U.S. sports league. Fewer than a dozen NFL franchises have changed hands over the past two decades, with the last coming in 2018, when hedge fund manager David Tepper paid a record $2.3 billion for the Carolina Panthers. NFL owners include several of America’s richest people, including Stephen Ross, Jerry Jones and Stan Kroenke.
Kroenke’s wife, Ann Walton Kroenke, is Rob Walton’s cousin.
In addition to the Rams, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment owns the Nuggets, Avalanche and Rapids, as well as Arsenal F.C. of the English Premier League.
Walton family members own about half of Walmart’s shares, though they’ve been selling with more frequency in the past year. A family trust disposed of about $6 billion in stock in 2021.
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