The Denver Broncos have reached a tentative agreement to sell the team to Rob Walton and members of the Walton and Penner families, all but ending an auction that is expected to fetch a record price north of $4 billion for the N.F.L. franchise.
The announcement by the team and Walton also ends a long tussle between the children of Pat Bowlen, who owned the team for nearly four decades before he died in 2019 at age 75.
The Walton and Penner families, who amassed their fortunes largely through their stakes in Walmart, were considered the best-financed bidders. The executors of the Bowlen Family Trust were obligated to accept the highest offer for the team to maximize the value of the family estate.
According to Forbes, Walton is believed to have a net worth of about $70 billion, which would make him the wealthiest owner in the N.F.L. if his families’ bid is approved.
The sale, which needs to be approved by at least three-quarters of the 31 other team owners, could be finalized within weeks.
In a statement, Rob Walton, speaking on behalf of the families, said they “are inspired by the opportunity to steward this great organization.”
Joe Ellis, the team’s longtime president and one of the trustees of the Bowlen trust, said in a statement that “today marks a significant step on the path to an exciting new chapter in Broncos history.”
Walton said that his ownership group would include Mellody Hobson, a Black woman who chairs the board of Starbucks Corporation. It is unclear what percentage of the team she will own. But N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell, under criticism because of the league’s lack of diversity among its leadership ranks, said in March that he hoped the Broncos’ new ownership would include a person of color.