Mellody Hobson Becomes First Black Woman with Equity Stake in NFL Team

Mellody Hobson and her husband, filmmaker George Lucas / Getty

*Walmart heir Rob Walton is leading a group that is set to buy the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion, pending NFL approval.

According to reports, Walton will serve as the majority owner, while his daughter, Carrie Walton Penner, and his son-in-law, Greg Penner, will become minority owners. Financial expert and Ariel Investments co-CEO Mellody Hobson will also be joining ownership, USA Today Sports reports. 

“Beyond her role at Ariel, Mellody is an influential leader in corporate and civic organizations across the nation,” Rob Walton said in a press release.

“Mellody currently serves as Chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation and is also a director of JPMorgan Chase. We know she will bring her strategic acumen and leadership perspective to our team.”

The Broncos announced they were going up for sale in February. At the time, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell noted that the team should sell to a diverse group.

“We would love to see a diverse owner of the team,” Goodell said, according to KUSA-TV’s Mike Klis. “Whether that’s a person of color, or a female, or a Black man — we think that would be a really positive step for us. And something we’ve encouraged. And one of the reasons we’ve reached out to find candidates who can do that.

“The Broncos are selling the team, not the NFL. We would have approval rights. But I think we’ll be very clear, and we have already been clear with the Broncos that [diversity] is something we would seek to have in the ownership.”

Hobson, the wife of billionaire filmmaker George Lucas, is the first Black woman with an equity stake in an NFL team. The size of her stake in the deal has not been disclosed, per the report. 

The deal comes after a bidding war that included offers from media mogul Byron Allen, billionaire Robert F. Smith and an investment group that included NBA icon Magic Johnson.

Last year, Forbes valued the Broncos at $3.75 billion. LA Focus Newspaper writes, “The winning bid is higher than expected and represents the highest sum ever paid for a professional sports franchise.”

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