Have you seen where the world’s richest people are trying to park their money? Professional sports franchises. Valuations of teams have skyrocketed in the past decade or so. Case in point, the Los Angeles Clippers, who were quite possibly the sorriest, most embarrassing, and least successful franchise in the world. When they went up for sale, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer couldn’t wait to cut a check for over $2 billion to gobble up that mess.  And he’s probably doubled his investment in eight years. 

The Denver Broncos are about to be sold to a Walton heir. Rob Walton is the lucky guy who gets to spend $4.5 billion on the NFL franchise. A story in Celebrity Net Worth chronicles the tale of legendary Hall of Fame former Denver quarterback John Elway, whom you can’t really blame if he checked himself into the witness protection program. 

Here’s why. 

In 1998, during Elway’s final season, team owner Pat Bowlen gave his favorite player one hell of an offer.  Elway was owed $21 million in deferred salary, and Bowlen gave him an option that few players have had the chance to consider. The offer was very cut and dried. 

Elway could purchase 10% of the team for $15 million, AND Elway would be able to have another 10% of the team if he would relinquish the $21 million owed him in the future. 

To sum that up, for $15 million out of pocket and a combined $36 million, Elway could own 20% of an NFL team. Believe it or not, 24 years ago, the valuation of the Broncos was just $180 million. 

Wait, there’s more. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Bowlen was even more generous, offering Elwway a 100% risk-free insurance policy. If Elway changed his mind in five years and wanted out, he’d get his purchase price of $36 and an additional $5 million. 

In a move that most likely haunts Elway, he turned the offer down. If you’re wondering if it was because he couldn’t afford it at the time, a year earlier, Elway had sold his car franchise, John Elway Autos, for $82.5 million. He had also earned $50 million in salary and $20 million in endorsements at that point. 

He could have had a $15 million, 100% risk-free deal to become a minority NFL owner. 

And when the Broncos sale officially closes, 20% of the $4.5 billion price tag would have been $900 million.

Ouch? 

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