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Annabel Bowlen files counter suit, entering the Broncos’ ownership fray

SB Nation logo SB Nation 12/21/2018 Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann
© Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The lawsuit counters an earlier suit filed by Pat Bowlen’s brother and argues that The Trust in charge of the Broncos right now is following her husband Pat’s wishes.

The issue of ownership of the Denver Broncos keeps getting murkier as news broke today that Annabel Bowlen, wife of owner Pat Bowlen, entered the fray over the future of the franchise.

Annabel filed a motion in Arapahoe County District Court on Monday to intervene in a lawsuit filed in the same court by Pat Bowlen’s brother, William, in October.

Bill Bowlen’s Oct. 25 motion argued the three people entrusted to run the team after Pat relinquished day-to-day control in 2014 due to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis have failed to uphold his wishes. Specifically, Bill Bowlen says the Trustees have not acted in his best interest or that of his family and the Broncos — including their choice for eventual owner.

Annabel’s counter suit claims that they are.

“We believe that that the Trustees have honored the wishes of her husband and their obligation to the beneficiaries of the Trust, and that the filing of a lawsuit by Mr. Bowlen’s brother serves no purpose,” Hugh Gottschalk, Annabel’s attorney, said in a statement.

Annabel Bowlen announced in June that she, too, had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Bill Bowlen indicated in a statement following his original court filing that the operation of the franchise had “deteriorated, while my brother’s health has worsened.”

The three trustees are Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis, Broncos general counsel Richard Slivka and Denver attorney Mary Kelly.

The three-person trust was established in 2014 to carry out Pat Bowlen’s wishes for future ownership of the team — which has always been to have the ownership go to one of his seven children

The fight for ownership began to heat up this summer when two daughters — 28-year-old Brittany Bowlen from Pat’s current marriage to Annabel, and 47-year-old Beth Bowlen Wallace from Pat’s first marriage to Sally Parker — both came forward as interested parties.

The Broncos — under the leadership of Ellis, Slivka and Kelly — have put their support behind Brittany and have continued to claim that Beth has not met the criteria.

Here is a timeline of major events in the ongoing saga:

1984 - Pat Bowlen and his siblings bought the Denver Broncos from Edward Kaiser for $78 million. The franchise is now valued at $2.65 billion.

2006 - Pat Bowlen began “showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease and incapacity in or around 2006” when he was “diagnosed by doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona with early onset Alzheimer’s,” according to Bill Bowlen’s October lawsuit.

2009 - Denver sports reporter Woody Paige wrote in 2017 that Pat Bowlen first revealed to him in a 2009 telephone interview that he “was experiencing severe memory loss. ‘I have trouble remembering the two Super Bowls (the Broncos victories in 1997-98),’ he said to me. ...The Broncos didn’t discuss publicly Bowlen’s health issue for years, although it was generally known in the organization and among media, his family and friends and throughout the NFL hierarchy. It was obvious in the early 2010s that Bowlen didn’t have the same strong physical-mental condition of years earlier.”

2009 - The Broncos revoked a 2002 Trust and established the Pat D. Bowlen Trust to set a path for transferring ownership of the Broncos to one of Pat Bowlen’s seven children — two with his first wife and five with current wife Annabel Bowlen.

2013 - Pat Bowlen formally filed with the NFL to step down from his day-to-day duties as controlling owner because of the progression of Alzheimer’s. Joe Ellis took over as the controlling owner, serving as the team voice for the NFL and making the daily decisions.

2014 - Pat Bowlen’s diagnosis was made public, and Ellis and the Trust became the controlling owners.

2015 - The Trust set criteria for the successor to meet in order to be eligible for owning the team.

May 2018 - Beth Bowlen Wallace, 47, declares she is interested - and capable - of becoming owner. The Trust informs her she is not qualified and indicates Brittany Bowlen is the likely heir for ownership.

June 2018 - Annabel Bowlen announces she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Oct. 25, 2018 - Bill Bowlen, brother to Pat Bowlen who sold his shares to the team 15 years ago, files suit to remove the Trust from power, arguing it is not fulfilling his brother’s wishes for the team.

November 2018 - Dan Reilly, attorney for The Trust and husband to trustee Mary Reilly, filed a stay on Bill Bowlen’s lawsuit, asking the NFL to act as arbitrator between the trustees and Beth Bowlen Wallace.

December 2018 - Bill Bowlen asks the court to decline the stay request by the trustees and then requests that the trustees’ salary not be paid or any legal fees covered by the Trust. The trustees ask the court for a 30-day stay.

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