Bowlen in 2010
|Born:||February 18, 1944|
Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
|Died:||June 13, 2019 (aged 75)|
|High school:||Campion Jesuit|
(Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin)
|Career highlights and awards|
Patrick Dennis Bowlen (February 18, 1944 - June 13, 2019) was the American majority owner of the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL). The Bowlen family, including his two brothers John Bowlen and Bill Bowlen, and sister Marybeth Bowlen, purchased the team from Edgar Kaiser in 1984. Bowlen served as the Broncos CEO from his purchase of the club in 1984 until July 2014, when he stepped down as Broncos' CEO due to the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease.
Bowlen was born in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, the son of Arvella (née Woods) and Paul Dennis Bowlen, who became a millionaire in the Canadian oil business, founding Regent Drilling as a wildcatter. The oil company is now owned by his brother John. Bowlen was Catholic and spent his childhood in Alberta. He then attended Campion High School, a Catholic Jesuit boarding school in his native Wisconsin. Bowlen later earned degrees in business (1965) and law (1968) from the University of Oklahoma. During his time at Oklahoma he played for the Oklahoma Sooners freshman football team as a wide receiver, as well as for the Edmonton Huskies junior football team, where he was part of two Canadian Junior Football League Championship teams in 1962 and 1963.
The younger Bowlen became wealthy in his own right by becoming a successful lawyer in Edmonton, Alberta. Bowlen also worked as an executive for his father's company and as a real estate developer and had major investments in the mining industry. During his business career in Edmonton his construction company, Batoni-Bowlen Enterprises, built the Northlands Coliseum, which would become home to the WHA/NHL's Edmonton Oilers for 42 years.
Bowlen was an initiated member of the Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity. Bowlen was initiated by the University of Oklahoma, Beta Omicron chapter in 1963. Bowlen received bar admission in 1969 and was a member of the Law Society of Alberta and the Canadian Bar Association.
From 1999 to 2008, Bowlen and the Broncos were involved in several legal battles against former owner Edgar Kaiser Jr. In 1998, Bowlen agreed to sell retired football legend John Elway a share in the team. When Bowlen let the existence of the offer slip out to Kaiser while both were at the 1999 Bohemian Grove, Kaiser sued, claiming a breach of contract. Kaiser asserted that he had the right of first refusal if any deal was made involving franchise ownership. In 2004, a jury ruled in favor of Kaiser and a federal judge decreed that Kaiser was entitled to purchase back 10% of the Broncos using the identical purchase terms offered to Elway. Bowlen appealed the original verdict that ruled in favor of Kaiser and won in 2008, as the appellate court ruled that the structure of the Bowlen-Elway deal did not violate the original right of first refusal agreement.
On December 30, 2008, Broncos head coach and Vice President of Football Operations Mike Shanahan was fired by Bowlen after a 14-year tenure as the head coach. Bowlen stated he wanted his team to go in a different direction. Bowlen searched for a new head coach over a two week period and eventually chose Josh McDaniels, who at the time was the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. Subsequently, after a losing streak in the 2010 season, McDaniels was fired as head coach of the Broncos. On February 12, 2009, Bowlen appointed Brian Xanders as the team's sole general manager and fired Jim and Jeff Goodman.
Within two weeks of the end of the 2010-11 regular season, Bowlen and the Broncos had hired former Carolina Panthers' coach John Fox to be their new head coach. Although Bowlen had discussions with Fox before the hiring, new front-office executive John Elway was mostly responsible for the hiring. By late 2009, rumors had begun to emerge that Bowlen had stepped out of the spotlight because of short-term memory loss. He told The Denver Post columnist Woody Paige that his memory wasn't what it used to be and that he couldn't recall details of the Broncos back-to-back Super Bowl titles in the late 1990s. Starting in 2010, Bowlen no longer played a major role in the Broncos' decision making, and Executive VP John Elway and President Joe Ellis assumed control. On July 23, 2014, due to complications with Alzheimer's disease, he officially relinquished control of the team to Joe Ellis.
After Bowlen acquired the team in 1984, the Broncos briefly held the highest winning percentage of any franchise in the National Football League (334 wins, 212 losses, and 1 tie, for a .612 winning percentage), passing the San Francisco 49ers after the 2015 season. At the time of Bowlen's death, the New England Patriots had surpassed that figure.
Besides being owner and CEO of the Broncos, Bowlen was also part-owner of the Arena Football League's Colorado Crush. He shared ownership with Denver-based sports mogul Stan Kroenke and legendary Broncos quarterback John Elway. The Crush entered the AFL as an expansion franchise in 2003. After going through a 2-14 season in 2003, the team became a perennial playoff contender and one of the league's top franchises. The Crush won the Arena Football League Championship in 2005.
In 2006, Major League Lacrosse decided to expand adding the Denver Outlaws to its league of teams. The Denver Outlaws have been the most winning franchise that Bowlen has ever owned, boasting a regular season win percentage of 69.0% since their creation. The Outlaws have been to the playoffs every year of their existence except one (2015) and advanced to the championship game eight times (2006, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018), winning the championship in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
Bowlen was a member of the University of Denver Board of Trustees and contributed to the funding of the Pat Bowlen Athletic Training Center located on the school's campus. He also contributed significantly to the local Denver Boys & Girls Club chapters.
On June 13, 2019, Bowlen died of Alzheimer's disease-related complications. Under terms set prior to Bowlen's death, Joe Ellis led a three-person trust representing his estate. Bowlen's intent was for his seven children to inherit the franchise, though he did not specify which of them would have first right.