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Mike Klis sets Denver Broncos preferred ownership narrative

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With all things being equal, the portrayal of the front-runners to own the Broncos is not.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

When Beth Bowlen Wallace came forward claiming that she’d met the Trust criteria to lay claim to ownership of the Denver Broncos, it was surprising.

But not nearly as surprising as the response that followed from the Trust, which was so forceful that Mike Klis of 9News characterized it as “outraged.” Without mincing words, the Trust made it clear that it does not presently view Bowlen Wallace as a viable candidate to inherit the Broncos.

Like many fans, I was curious what the guidelines for ownership were and appreciated that Klis had taken the time to break down Bowlen Wallace’s qualifications in an article. Then, seemingly unprompted by any external event, Klis published a second article declaring that Brittany Bowlen was the front-runner to become Broncos owner.

After reading Klis’ workup on Brittany, it was apparent that he had taken a vastly different approach to her than he had with Beth.

It’s important to compare both Klis articles featuring the heirs and their qualifications to assume ownership of the organization. I urge you to read them both fully before continuing. You may find the complete article about Beth here, and about about Brittany here. Below I have highlighted Klis’ comments on each Bowlen daughter for the various criteria set forth by the Trust.

  • Education component, where an advanced degree is encouraged

It would seem Bowlen Wallace has met this point as she received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado and law degree from the University of Denver in 2016.

It’s unclear whether the Trust expects the degree to become applicable. Bowlen Wallace is not yet a practicing attorney, although she is putting some of her advanced law classes to use in the business she shares with her husband.

The Trust seems sensitive to the notion its criteria can be simplified into a checklist. If it was, Brittany could check off this box in bold marker ... She graduated from Notre Dame, a top 20 academic school according to Forbes Magazine, with a finance degree in 2013. She had a grade-point average of 3.8. Last month, Brittany finished her Master’s and Business Administration (MBA) degree from the acclaimed Fuqua School of Business at Duke ... There is little doubt she meets the education guideline set forth by the Trust.

What’s interesting about this comparison is that Klis goes into intricate detail about Brittany, yet glosses over the fact that Brittany’s had her advanced degree for fewer than six weeks. Further, no supporting details were offered or referenced concerning Beth’s schooling or GPA.

  • Five years employment with the Broncos or NFL

This is where Bowlen Wallace falls short, at least by the letter of the criteria. She was employed for a little more than three years with the Broncos as a director of special projects before leaving in 2015.

She was involved in the development of the Ring of Fame Plaza. Otherwise, the position primarily dealt with community events.

After getting her degree from Notre Dame, Brittany moved to New York where she worked full-time in the league office for two years, spanning the calendar years of 2013-15, as part of its rotational program. ... After Brittany’s two years in the league office, she returned home and worked with the Broncos as a business analyst during the team’s Super Bowl 50 season of 2015.

Look at the difference in the language Klis used for each heir. They both clearly fall short of what’s expected, but Brittany gets the endorsement. Why?

It was Brittany’s work with the league office that made it a poorly-kept secret she became the clear frontrunner to one day sit in her father’s chair.

Why? It’s worth noting Joe Ellis similarly left the Broncos to work with the league office in a variety of departments in the late-1980s. Ellis was named by Pat Bowlen as one of his three trustees and also appointed him as the team’s president and chief executive officer.

Titles aside, Ellis has essentially been Bowlen’s right-hand man since the late-1990s. Ellis believes an understanding of how the league operates is vital to running a team.

Someone please explain what Joe Ellis’ experience in the league office during the Reagan administration has to do with Brittany Bowlen’s completion of this criteria. It is understandable that Ellis’ league experience helped Pat to trust Ellis, and I suppose that bodes well for Brittany, but qualifications-wise that’s quite a leap to make especially when it’s a five-year work requirement that’s being discussed. The arguement that Brittany will somehow become the second coming of Ellis because they have similar work experience decades apart is tough to swallow.

  • Financial and business acumen

Bowlen Wallace ran her own wedding planning and event management company, Social Butterfly, in Hawaii for several years in the 2000s.

... Bowlen Wallace and her husband John Wallace also founded their own oil and gas firm, Reign Energy Partners, which is now Joseph Energy, as it’s a contract-based company.

Again, whether Bowlen Wallace meets this component could be open to interpretation.

This is where Brittany hits a home run. Start with her finance degree at Notre Dame. Then she got finance experience at the league level. Move [sic] on to working primarily in the finance department with the Broncos.

In the midst of getting her MBA at Duke, Brittany spent the summer of 2017 serving an internship with McKinsey & Company, a global management firm that consults with businesses on projects and improving operations. ... Forbes in 2017 ranked McKinsey as the No. 2 consulting firm in the United States. ... Brittany apparently impressed her McKinsey bosses during her internship: She has accepted a position with the company on a full-time basis.

For whatever reason, Klis chose to diminish Beth by placing her decade-old wedding planning accolade over the founding of an oil and gas energy company and doesn’t elaborate. However, when it comes to Brittany, Klis glosses over the fact that her real-world non-NFL experience is limited to a few months outside of her internship in 2017. It’s great that McKinsey was the “No. 2 consulting firm in the United States,” but absolutely zero of that distinction is due to Brittany’s internship with them.

Like with the last section, Klis uses irrelevant facts to bolster Brittany’s claim while offering none to Beth.

One reason why John Elway had so much immediate success as the Broncos’ general manager was his extraordinary business acumen. His experiences in the automobile and restaurant industry carried over when it was time to fit talent into a payroll budget.

There may be another intangible Brittany has going for her: She grew up with her father at her mom and dad’s home in Denver, as did four other Bowlen children, Patrick, John, Annabel and Christianna.

Brittany’s internship compares to Elway’s automobile and restaurant empire, how? Also, how does living in one place over another (while not disclosing where Beth grew up) make one Bowlen child more fit in the affairs of business and finance?

  • Experience in positions of leadership

With Social Butterfly, Bowlen Wallace had a handful of employees, but she managed up to 200 to 300 employees a day for larger corporate events.

It’s possible the Trust may view this as not enough qualification to run a franchise that was most recently valued at $2.6 billion by Forbes Magazine.

Brittany is getting experience in this area, and fast. While working in the NFL’s business development department, she led staff on various projects related to fan engagement and in-stadium experience.

... While pursuing her MBA at Duke, Brittany was involved in several campus leadership events.

... According to a trustee source, Brittany was very impressive in her ability to relate with others during the year she worked with the Broncos.

Some would say that founding an Energy company would be experience in a position of leadership, but for whatever reason, Klis again opts to instead highlight the defunct wedding/event planning business. He then uses the value of the Broncos almost as a reason why it’s preposterous for someone who ran something called “Social Butterfly” to be an NFL owner.

Meanwhile, in Brittany’s breakdown, Klis goes to great length to showcase Brittany as though he’s proudly reading from her resume — “Brittany was involved in several campus leadership events.” What does that mean? Did she run for student government? Did she help organize the semi-formal? Why does it matter?! It’s a $2.6 billion enterprise and campus leadership events hold more sway than the founding and operation of an energy company? Clearly, this isn’t even close to an apples-to-apples comparison.

  • An overarching, subjective component to the criteria that calls for the trustees to make judgments on character, honesty and integrity

Bowlen Wallace has said she’d let her reputation in the community and her commitment to honoring her father’s legacy speak for itself.

All indications are Brittany is strong in this key area. Various Trust and family sources say that while she is not quite ready, she’s hard-working, humble, thoughtful and confident. If Brittany’s development continues at its current pace, there is a strong chance she could be ready to assume command of the Broncos early in the next decade.... The key, it seems, is how quickly one adapts. And some people either have that ability, or they don’t. Given the many accomplishments and credentials Brittany has already achieved, it appears she has a chance. A real strong chance to one day succeed her father.

Beth gets a sentence. Brittany gets a ringing endorsement, ascension plan, and has that Tim Tebow-esuqe ‘it-factor’ that a chosen few apparently have. Meanwhile, it’s like Klis uses Beth’s statement of her work speaking for itself against her. Rather than elaborate on her community reputation or work honoring her father’s legacy, he just lets her quote hang out there. Why not explain further?

It’s clear that these two articles by Klis are not unbiased journalism. They are calculated components of a narrative being pushed to favor one Bowlen heir over another when both clearly haven’t met the reported criteria. Klis quotes Trust and family sources in Brittany’s article but only makes vague mention of Beth’s family support (or that of minority ownership) at the end of her article.

For the record, I don’t have a preference of one heir over another. Up until last week, I was aware that a gaggle of Bowlen’s existed but would have been hard pressed to produce many of their names without Googling. That’s what’s so striking about these two articles. Most Broncos fans don’t know these women either. Fan opinion is going to be formulated from reading these articles (and the dozens more that are to follow in the coming months).

As this develops, it’s important that we as Broncos fans carefully consider information like this. Is it being used to elevate public opinion of one unknown Bowlen heir over another as it was in this instance ... and why? Why does a reporter have a vested interest in one heir over another? If such a preference exists, why not just come out and say it?