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Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joins Denver Broncos' new ownership group

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has joined the incoming ownership group for the Denver Broncos.

Rice, who has also served as the national security adviser as well as provost of Stanford University, lived in Denver during her childhood and received a bachelor's degree and her doctorate from the University of Denver.

"It is an honor to be part of this ownership group. Football has been an integral part of my life since the moment it was introduced to me, and I am thrilled to be a part of the Broncos organization today," Rice said in a statement posted on social media. "I spent much of my younger years in Denver, so to be able to combine my love of the game with my love for this great city and team is an adventure of a lifetime and a great opportunity."

In June, a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton that includes Walton's daughter, Carrie Walton Penner; her husband, Greg Penner; and Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments and chair of the board for Starbucks Corp., agreed to purchase the Broncos for $4.65 billion.

In a statement Monday, Walton said: "We're pleased to welcome former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to our ownership group. A highly respected public servant, accomplished academic and corporate leader, Secretary Rice is well known as a passionate and knowledgeable football fan who has worked to make the sport stronger and better. She is the daughter of a football coach and served on the inaugural College Football Playoff Committee. ... Her unique experience and extraordinary judgment will be a great benefit to our group and the Broncos organization."

The sale of the team, which was for a record price paid for a North American sports franchise, is under review by the NFL and must be approved by a full vote of the NFL owners in the coming weeks. Twenty-four yes votes are needed for the sale to be formally approved.

It was expected to take 60 to 90 days for the sale to be approved and the deal to be closed.

The Walton-Penner group was, according to multiple sources, one of four groups that had advanced to the second round of bidding for the team in early June. The Broncos have been one of the NFL's most successful franchises in the Super Bowl era, with three Super Bowl wins in Pat Bowlen's ownership tenure, and they now have an ownership group with some of the deepest pockets.

It is expected Greg Penner and Carrie Walton Penner will have prominent roles in the day-to-day operations of the team, and current Broncos CEO Joe Ellis had expressed, since the team was formally put up for sale Feb. 1, how important it is that the new owner be "visible" in the community and understand the Broncos' place in Denver, the state of Colorado and the region.

The team's sale ended an eight-year odyssey since Bowlen stepped away from the day-to-day operations of the team he had owned for 30 years in July 2014 due to the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Bowlen died in 2019.

Bowlen never formally declared a successor among his children, and when he stepped away, he had his interest in the team (estimated to be about 78% at the time) placed in a trust overseen by Ellis, Broncos counsel Rich Slivka and Denver attorney Mary Kelly.

What followed included a lawsuit between family members, harsh words and court dates that coincided with a current six-year streak of playoff misses on the field. The team's Super Bowl 50 win to close out the 2015 season was the last postseason game the Broncos played.

The sale agreement with the Walton-Penner group also means Walton and Stan Kroenke, Walton's cousin by marriage, will own five of the six major professional sports franchises in Colorado. Kroenke owns the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids and Colorado Mammoth lacrosse team, in addition to a regional media company in the state.