Greg and Carrie Penner are expected to handle day-to-day operations while Walton oversees.
DENVER – On a Sunday evening, May 8 – Mother’s Day after all – Joe Ellis sat down to dinner with a group of two potential buyers for the Denver Broncos.
The dinner took place at Bilboquet, a French restaurant in Cherry Creek specializing in foie gras and steak tartare. And fries, of course. Peyton Manning hosted his retirement party here in 2016.
Accompanying Broncos CEO, President and Managing Owner Ellis on that near-perfect early spring evening (72 degrees was the maximum that day), Steve Greenberg, the financial adviser to Pat Bowlen’s estate trustees (another Ellis role) who was hired to coordinate the sale of the team, and Greg and Carrie Walton Penner, who co-led the Walton family’s bid to buy the NFL franchise.
Money man S. Robson Walton flew in the next morning, Monday, May 9, for the official family visit to the Broncos’ home stadium in downtown Denver and the team’s headquarters in Englewood, which sits across from Centennial Airport, where he parked his private jet. And by “he parked”, we mean that Rob Walton parked the plane. He pilots his own means of transport.
The arrangement was somewhat symbolic of how it will work for the Broncos once the Waltons and Penners officially take charge within six weeks to 60 days, depending on when the NFL owners return their vote of approval. intended. Greg and Carrie Penner, Rob’s son-in-law and daughter, will take care of the day-to-day business of the Broncos. Rob Walton, who turns 78 in October, will occasionally fly his plane, watch games, speak regularly with general manager George Paton, head coach Nathaniel Hackett and his favorite Penners. But he will keep his primary residence in Arizona.
This is Walton’s world and the rest of Broncos country lives there now.
RELATED: Walmart Heir Rob Walton Agrees to Buy Denver Broncos for Record $4.65 Billion
The Flying Waltons
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, wrote his autobiography, “Made in America” while racing against the cancer that claimed his life in April 1992. In his life story, Sam explained that he not only bought his first plane in 1954, but got his pilot’s license to fly it, for little other reason than to save time. A workaholic, Sam often flew to towns that had variety stores similar to his. He would fly in to check them out and bring ideas back to his own store.
He was not rich in 1954, although his Ben Franklin store was doing well. And Sam Walton was ahead of his time. Last year there were more than 22,000 private jets operated around the world, including those owned by John Elway and Russell Wilson.
But in 1954, many, if not most, Americans were afraid to fly commercially, let alone fly a twin-engine aircraft for themselves. Rob was also among Sam’s children who learned to fly. Flying, biking and hunting have been Rob’s life passions. When Rob succeeded his father as president of Walmart in 1992, he went to work in his spartan, windowless little office in Bentonville, Ark. for about 10 years, but then spent the next decade living elsewhere — including Colorado — and commuting to his office. by private jet four or five times a month.
“Rob is a good driver,” former Walmart CEO Lee Scott once said in a Rob Walton profile written by Andy Serwer for Fortune. “He follows all the rules.”
It’s a practice that will serve Rob Walton well as the Broncos’ new majority owner. He may not always be present, but it wouldn’t be accurate to call him an absent owner. Pulling a plane at Centennial Airport is only a few minutes longer than those who, for example, park at the Broncos Team Store before driving to the entrance to the practice field.
“Rob has no interest in discussions about whether the Clorox should be on the third shelf,” Scott said. “But with real estate and legal and those kinds of areas, his knowledge base and ability to dig is remarkable. He also has a photographic memory. He can tell you about a store we opened in Paducah, Ky. ., and that it’s near a Burger King and three miles from the highway and that’s why the Kmart is in a slightly better location.”
Despite all his wealth, Rob Walton does not put on airs. During his many introductions to Broncos headquarters in early May, Walton, if seated, would rise to shake hands. Every time someone called him, Mr. Walton, he would say, “call me Rob.”
Robson may sound autocratic, but that was his mother’s maiden name. Helen Walton’s father was Leland Stanford Robson, a successful banker and rancher in his own right.
RELATED: Will the Denver Broncos’ new owners be looking for a new stadium?
With the Broncos, the Penners may not care whether equipment manager Chris Valenti puts the extra shoulder pads on the second or third shelves. But if some players complain about the material of the pads, the Penners will hear about it before Walton.
The Penners, as we now find out, are officially residents of Colorado. They have two homes in the state, one of which they can drive to their new offices at 13665 E. Broncos Parkway (as Uber knows. The mailing address is 13655). Greg and Carrie met when they were students at Georgetown University from 1988 to 1992. They both earned their master’s degrees at Stanford.
Greg Penner, 52, grew up in Los Angeles and later founded Madrone Capital Partners, an investment management firm. Somewhere along the way, he gained his stepfather’s trust and friendship. Because in 2015, when Rob Walton resigned after 23 years at the head of Walmart, it was his son-in-law Greg who succeeded him. There have only been three presidents in the history of Walmart, which opened its first store in 1962 and went public in 1970 – Sam Walton, Rob Walton and Greg Penner.
After a five-year recession from 2010 to 2014 in which combined sales growth was virtually zero, Walmart has grown steadily every year since 2015, peaking at an 8.7% gain last year.
Carrie Walton Penner, 51, was a leader in the charter school movement. Through the Walton Family Foundation, the Waltons have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to help start more than 1,600 schools.
The Penners placed their four children in private schools.
“That’s what we want for all parents,” Walton-Penner said in an interview with Forbes.
As part of their sale agreement to purchase the Broncos, the Walton-Penners listed only four names: Rob Walton, Greg and Carrie Penner, and Mellody Hobson, 53, president of Starbucks and president and co- CEO of Ariel Investments.
All four will have offices at the UCHealth Training Center.
RELATED: New Broncos Owner Rob Walton May Be Rich, But GM, Coach, QB & Roster Matters More Than Money in the NFL
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