Earvin “Magic” Johnson is entering the bidding for the Denver Broncos, according to someone familiar with the move.
The former NBA star has joined the bid group being led by Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Josh Harris, according to the person, who was granted anonymity because the details are private. Adding a high-profile African American investor, one of Johnson’s stature no less, could help make the group more attractive as bidding intensifies in the coming weeks and months.
The NFL has faced increased pressure over the lack of diversity in its ownership ranks, and every Broncos bid group is expected to have minority investors. That’s difficult to require in an estate sale, where the trustees have a fiduciary obligation to sell to the highest qualified bidder, but commissioner Roger Goodell recently said he believed the process could achieve both goals.
It’s unclear how much capital Johnson is contributing to the bid group. Johnson didn’t immediately return a request for comment. Representatives for the Broncos, Harris, and Allen & Company, which was retained to sell the team, all declined to comment.
This would be a familiar role for Johnson. In 2011, when the Los Angeles Dodgers were for sale, Johnson joined the bid group led by Guggenheim executives (including Todd Boehly, who is leading a different bid for the Broncos). Johnson put in $50 million of his own money, a relatively small contribution to a successful bid that eventually topped $2 billion, but he played an outsized role representing the group publicly. Adding one of Los Angeles’ most famous athletes was viewed as a bridge to the city’s baseball fans, who had soured on the Dodgers and prior owner Frank McCourt.
The Harris group is one of at least five prospective buyers that have advanced to the next round of bidding for the Broncos. Others that have been identified include Rob Walton, an heir to the Walmart fortune and one of the country’s richest people, and Boehly, who has a large portfolio across sports, tech and entertainment. Boehly is also part of a group that was recently tabbed as the preferred buyer in the highly competitive auction for Chelsea FC, though a final deal hasn’t yet been reached. (Harris and his HBSE partner David Blitzer are also bidders for Chelsea.)
The Broncos are expected to set a record for the highest price ever paid for a sports franchise, topping the $3.3 billion that Joe Tsai paid for the Brooklyn Nets and the rights to operate the Barclays Center in a deal completed in 2019. Sportico recently valued the team at $3.8 billion.
Johnson, 62, has become a successful businessman after retiring from the NBA in 1996. In addition to the Dodgers, he’s made lucrative moves into real estate and franchising movie theaters, Starbucks stores, fast food and gyms. He’s a Fanatics board member and also an investor in esports organization aXiomatic, the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and the MLS club LAFC.