NFL’s new ownership policy could create major problems for Titans, Broncos

Mike Florio
·3 min read

The NFL best functions when each and every team has one person fully and completely in charge. The NFL recently developed a tool for ensuring that this happens.

As reported by Ben Fischer of Sports Business Daily, and as PFT has confirmed, Commissioner Roger Goodell now has the authority to issue fines of up to $10 million per year to teams that fail to comply with the league rule mandating that one person hold the minimum amount of equity in the team and, most importantly, possess final say over any and all matters on which the various teams periodically vote.

Fischer has reported that individual owners also can be fined up to $2 million per year for non-compliance.

A source with knowledge of the deliberations explained to PFT that Bengals owner Mike Brown advocated simply stripping a non-complying team of its voting power, rather than imposing eight-figure annual fines. The owners, when it was time to exercise their voting power, opted for the financial penalties.

The new rule has particular relevance to two franchises. The passing of Titans founder Bud Adams resulted in the transfer of one third of the franchise to each of the three primary branches of his family tree. However, Adams did not give any one of them final and ultimate say over the affairs of the franchise.

The league and the Titans tussled for a bit over the defect, with the Titans at one point retaining antitrust counsel (and all that that implies). The war has remained cold, with Amy Adams Strunk serving as the controlling owner under what is to believed to be an agreement that she will have that power until she steps down, and that the power then will flow to her nephew, Kenneth Adams IV.

The Broncos, as one source explained it to PFT, have a potential problem that will become relevant after the three-person trust who has been running the team for several years selects one of the seven children of Pat Bowlen to take over. If, as it is believed, ownership has been divided among the seven children equally, the winner of this intra-family Willie Wonka contest (presumably, Brittany Bowlen) would need the other six siblings to permanently surrender to the winner the power to run the team.

The source predicts that, given lingering squabbles among some of the siblings, the Broncos eventually will be sold. Broncos CEO Joe Ellis, one of the three trustees, tiptoed around the core of the problem last December, when suggesting that a sale could indeed happen.

“[I]t is an option, and we’ve told the beneficiaries that, because if Brittany were to succeed and take over for her father, everybody else is going to have to sign off on that, most likely. That may not be a requirement, but it’s going to be necessary, I think, moving forward from a trustee viewpoint. That’s why a sale remains a possibility I think — given the circumstances we’re in.”

The league’s rules make it a requirement. And the latest policy creates an eight-figure tax on the team if the requirement isn’t met, along with up to $2 million per year on the individual owners who aren’t in compliance.

Ultimately, the league want to know that the person voting yes or no on any and every given proposal has the clear and unequivocal power to cast that vote. If it was an issue that wasn’t properly accounted for in the estate planning of owners like Adams and Bowlen, it’s now clear that, moving forward, it must be.

NFL’s new ownership policy could create major problems for Titans, Broncos originally appeared on Pro Football Talk