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Broncos Owner Steps Down Citing Alzheimer’s Disease

Denver Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen
Team owner of the Denver Broncos Pat Bowlen celebrates after they defeated the New England Patriots 26 to 16 during the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado, on January 19, 2014. Photographer: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen ceded control of the National Football League franchise after acknowledging that he’s been battling Alzheimer’s disease.

The Broncos, who reached the Super Bowl six times during Bowlen’s ownership and won back-to-back championships in 1998 and 1999, will be overseen by team President Joe Ellis, the Broncos said on their website.

Bowlen, 70, already had taken a reduced role in recent years while battling Alzheimer’s privately, the team said in a statement.

“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,” the team said. “We continue to offer our full support, compassion and respect to ‘Mr. B,’ who has faced Alzheimer’s disease with such dignity and strength.”

Bowlen’s team ownership is held in a trust, created more than a decade ago, that is overseen by non-family trustees.

“Mr. Bowlen’s long-term hope is for one of his children to run the Broncos at the appropriate time, and his succession plan will continue to be implemented by our organization in compliance with NFL ownership policies,” the team said.

Bowlen’s wife, Annabel, said in a statement that her husband’s goals will be implemented by Ellis, who has worked with Bowlen for almost his entire 30-year ownership of the team. Ellis also has been given the title of chief executive officer.

Bowlen’s Tenure

Bowlen, a former Ironman triathlon participant who has run several marathons, became the Broncos’ owner in 1984.

The Broncos reached the Super Bowl last season before losing to the Seattle Seahawks. Denver has won the American Football Conference West Division for the past three seasons. The team has sold out all 257 games of Bowlen’s ownership.

“This is a sad day for the NFL,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “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.”

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