Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is currently struggling with Alzheimer's disease. As a result, the long-time franchise owner will cede control of the team to team president Joe Ellis. Though the news may come as a shock to fans and onlookers around the league, the change within the organization will be minimal. Reportedly, this arrangement has been in place since 2010 when issues concerning "short-term memory loss" were beginning to affect Bowlen's ability to lead the franchise. Today, the team confirmed this news in a statement:
In recent years, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has taken a reduced role with his team while courageously and privately battling Alzheimer's disease. The Broncos are very saddened that Mr. Bowlen is no longer able to be part of the team's daily operations due to his condition. We continue to offer our full support, compassion and respect to 'Mr. B,' who has faced Alzheimer's disease with such dignity and strength.
In response to the news, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement of his own to The Denver Post:
This is a sad day for the NFL. 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. But the time has come for Pat to focus on his health and we fully support him. Joe Ellis has been a trusted executive for Pat for many years after working with us at the league office. Joe's deep experience ensures that the Broncos will continue to have strong leadership.
Bowlen purchased the Broncos in 1984 from American-Canadian businessman Edgar Kaiser, saving the team from possible bankruptcy as a result of the transaction. In the 30 years since, Bowlen has been a model owner around the league, overseeing the Broncos as they appeared in six Super Bowls and won two, back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998. Bowlen's tenure in the league has been generally smooth, save a protracted legal battle with Kaiser that began in 1999. The dispute concerned the right to sell shares of the team, and arose after Bowlen told Kaiser that he had sold 10 percent of his ownership stake to the newly-retired John Elway. Kaiser claimed that Bowlen had no right to do so, and that the choice to sell shares of the team remained Kaiser's decision. In 2008, the case was finally resolved when the original decision (which ruled in favor of Kaiser) was overturned in a court of appeals.
Aside from owning the Broncos, Bowlen was also part-owner of the Arena Football League's Colorado Crush, as well as Major League Lacrosse's Denver Outlaws.
Operationally, not much will change for the Broncos. Still, however, it's a somber day for the NFL, as one of its most respected businessmen publicly comes to grips with his tragic struggle. We wish Bowlen all the best.