Who are the Waltons and the Penners — the likely next owners of the Denver Broncos?

Fans arrive at Empower Field at Mile High prior to an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Denver.
David Zalubowski/AP
Fans arrive at Empower Field at Mile High prior to an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Denver.

Updated at 3 p.m. on August 2, 2022

When the Denver Broncos announced late Tuesday that they had entered into an agreement to be bought by the Walton-Penner family, Broncos fans might have been forgiven for asking: Who?

Walmart money. That’s who is in line to buy the storied franchise. And at a reported $4.65 billion, it’s a big bet, and the most ever paid for a sports team in North America.

The deal still has to be approved by the NFL’s owners, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that it could only take 60-90 days and that no issues are expected to arise. 

Let’s look then at who the major players are in the deal, the Walton family, and how they are all already tied to Colorado sports.

The Owners

Rob Walton: He’s the major money behind the deal. Some estimates put his worth as high as $65 billion. That money came from his father, Walmart co-founder Sam Walton, who died in 1992 and left his fortune to family members. After Sam’s death, Rob became chair of Walmart and ran the company for more than two decades before he retired in 2015. Rob Walton has a law degree from Columbia University and has three children, including Carrie Walton-Penner, who will also co-own the Broncos with her father, and her husband, Greg Penner, who took over as Walmart chair when Rob Walton retired.

Bonus Fact: Rob Walton recently sold an undeveloped piece of land in Aspen for more than $30 million, a record.

Carrie Walton-Penner: She is one of Sam Walton’s grandchildren and sits on the board of the Walton Family Foundation, one of the many philanthropic arms of the Walmart money. She has degrees from Georgetown and Stanford universities. One of the main causes of her life is K-12 education advocacy. She is also a trustee for the Aspen Institute. It has been reported that she and her husband, Greg Penner, will run the Broncos day-to-day operations. The pair live in Atherton, California, but also have a home in Aspen.

Bonus Fact: She’s a key player in the push for charter schools in America.

Greg Penner: He is the chair of the Walmart Board of Directors, which he took over from his father-in-law, Rob Walton, in 2015. Like his wife, Greg also has degrees from Georgetown and Stanford. Before starting work at Walmart in 2008, Penner was a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs and has held other positions at different financial companies — as well as his own.

Bonus Fact: Penner’s parents are Christian sex therapists.

Mellody Hobson: She is one of two ownership group members not directly related to Walmart money. Hobson is the chair of the board for Starbucks, is a director of JPMorgan and runs Ariel Investments, a mutual fund and money management firm. She graduated from Princeton University.

Bonus Fact:  She is married to George Lucas. Yes, that George Lucas.

Condoleezza Rice: A former U.S. Secretary of State, Rice is also from outside the Walmart dynasty. She moved to Denver when she was 12 and went on to complete her bachelor's degree and a PhD from the University of Denver. She is the first and only Black woman to work as Secretary of State, serving under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009.

Bonus Fact: Rice was reportedly considered a candidate to become the Cleveland Browns' head coach in 2018. She's consistently denied having interest in the job.

Sir Lewis Hamilton: The Brit is a seven-time Formula One champion and holds the record for race wins at 103. As the first and only Black driver in Formula One, Hamilton has faced racist backlash and advocated for diversifying the sport. Rob Walton said of Hamilton in a statement. "He is a champion competitor who knows what it takes to lead a winning team.''

Bonus Fact: That "Sir" at the beginning of Hamilton's name is his title. That's right. One of the new Bronco owners is a Knight.

The Other Players

Ben Walton: He is Rob Walton’s son and grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton. He’s also one of the major connections the family has to Colorado. He and his wife recently paid $22 million to buy land in Cherry Hills Village, where new Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson recently also bought a home — paying $25 million. The pair also split their time between Colorado and Chile.

Bonus Fact: Ben Walton and his wife also reportedly own a house in Denver’s Hilltop neighborhood. 

E. Stanley Kroenke: He owns most of Colorado’s professional sports teams: the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche, the Colorado Rapids, the Colorado Mammoth. And he owns a lot more than that: Denver’s Paramount Theatre and Ball Arena, the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, the Elich Gardens amusement park, cable TV network Altitude and the English Premier League soccer club Arsenal. It’s a lot. But Stan Kroenke’s inclusion here is because he is married to Ann Walton Kroenke, daughter of Sam Walton’s brother Bud and cousin of Rob Walton. What synergy may or may not exist between the families has yet to be seen, but with Kroenke’s massive real estate holdings around Ball Arena and in the space between it and Empower Field at Mile High, it’s likely there are some plans already in the works.

Bonus Fact #1: According to The Land Report magazine, Kroenke owns more than 1.6 million acres of land in the United States, 5th most for a single landowner.

Bonus Fact #2: Stan is named for two baseball players. His first name is actually Enos, named after Enos Slaughter. Stanley is for Stan Musial.

Ann Walton Kroenke: She’s a daughter of Bud Walton, Sam Walton’s brother. When Bud died, she inherited nearly $5 billion of the Walmart fortune. She is married to Stan Kroenke, who she reportedly first met in Aspen. Ann and Stan have a son, Josh Kroenke, who lives in Denver, and runs the day-to-day operations of the family’s sports teams, including the Nuggets, the Avalanche and Arsenal.

Bonus Fact: Ann Walton Kroenke is a registered nurse.

Josh Kroenke: He’s the heir apparent to not one, but two billionaire parents, Stan Kroenke and Ann Walton Kroenke. That makes him a grandson of Bud Walton, Walmart founder Sam Walton’s brother. Josh runs the day-to-day operations of many of his parents’ sports properties, including those in Denver. He lives in Denver.

Bonus Fact: Josh attended the University of Missouri on a basketball scholarship