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When the sale of the Denver Broncos becomes finalized, Mellody Hobson will become the first Black woman with an equity stake in a team in the NFL’s history.
The Broncos confirmed this week that the franchise was set to be purchased by a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton. Walton will be the majority owner, his daughter and son-in-law Carrie Walton Penner and Greg Penner respectively will be minority owners.
Walton announced Tuesday that Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments, was a part of the ownership group as well.
“Beyond her role at Ariel, Mellody is an influential leader in corporate and civic organizations across the nation,” 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.”
Earlier this year, media mogul Byron Allen announced his interest in purchasing the Broncos and becoming the first Black owner of an NFL team, but talks never amounted to a serious bid.
Mellody Hobson’s Diverse Business Background
At a time when the NFL is facing a reckoning with diversity on multiple fronts, the ownership group including Hobson could not come at a better time. The league is facing a hiring discrimination lawsuit led by Brian Flores and multiple other Black coaches which names the Broncos as one of the defendants.
The league also has zero Black owners, despite Black players making up roughly 70% of the league’s rosters. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during a press conference during this year’s Super Bowl that the league was actively encouraging teams looking to sell to include diverse ownership groups.
“We would love to see a diverse owner of the [Broncos],” Goodell said. “Whether that’s a person of color, or a female, or a Black man — we think that would be a really positive step for [the NFL]. And something we’ve encouraged. And one of the reasons we’ve reached out to find candidates who can do that.”
Mellody Hobson is the perfect candidate for the job. Her resume includes investments, entertainment, food service, and banking experience. At the age of 31, she became the president of Ariel Investments, which manages over $15 billion in assets.
Hobson is also a director of JPMorgan Chase, currently serves as Chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation, Chairwoman of the Board of DreamWorks Animation, and a Board member for Estèe Lauder Companies.
In her keynote speech at Variety’s Power of Women: Conversations, Mellody Hobson said “Look at the organization from top to bottom, start at the board, look by ethnicity and gender.”
“For most things in corporate America that matter, we have incentives tied to them. Box office receipts, or it could be eyeballs, it could be a product line, it could be earnings, it could be profitability…There are all sorts of issues and see metrics and incentives tied to them in corporate America. So why with something that is crucial as diversity — which we all say is mission critical — not also have incentives tied to it?”
With Hobson’s expertise, one thing is for sure: the Broncos are receiving a major incentive with Hobson in the ownership group.