Walmart’s Rob Walton is on the inside track to owning the NFL’s Denver Broncos, edging out Black billionaire Robert F. Smith, and much to the disappointment of the league’s Commissioner Roger Goodell who’s fending off a racially damaging lawsuit, the New York Post reports.
Sources told the Post that Walton, 77, is expected to make a bid on the franchise by the April 15 deadline. The Walmart tycoon is reportedly prepared to spend more than $4 billion, which would mark a record amount paid for a professional sports franchise in the United States.
Reports surfaced earlier this year that Smith, the wealthiest Black American with a net worth of about $6.7 billion, is considering a bid for the Broncos. If he succeeds, Smith, who founded the private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, would become the first Black NFL team owner.
According to the Post, Goodell and New England Patriot owner Robert Kraft, among other “NFL bigwigs,” are privately urging Smith to throw his hat into the ring. They’re in Smith's corner as the league confronts a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by ex-Miami Dolphins Coach Brian Flores, who is Black.
Flores’ lawsuit against the Dolphins and two other teams – the Denver Broncos and New York Giants – alleges that they discriminated against him in their head coach hiring process. The suit put a national spotlight on a league that is “rife with racism,” which hires a handful of Blacks for top positions in a league of 70 percent Black players.
Inside sources told the Post that Smith may not bid, after all. Investors of Vista Equity Partners want him to stay focused on the company. At the same time, while Smith has deep pockets, Walton’s $70 billion net worth can more easily cover the league’s team ownership requirements.
Under the rules, an owner can be no more than $1 billion in debt on a team and must put down at least 33 percent of the equity. For Smith, that means he would likely have to bring in partners to cover the anticipated price tag of between $4.5 billion and $5 billion, as well as write a check for at least $1 billion.