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Byron Allen: The Media Mogul (and Former Comedian) Bidding on the Broncos

The entertainer turned CEO confirmed he’s moving to buy the Denver Broncos. Let’s explore his path to being selected by Roger Goodell for a chance to become the NFL’s first Black majority owner.

Who is Byron Allen?

Several NFL fans across the country asked themselves (and Google) this exact question following Allen’s confirmation to Bloomberg that he was submitting a formal bid to purchase the Denver Broncos. The entrepreneur and philanthropist got his start as a comedian, but in 1993, he launched his own media company — and amassed an enormous fortune along the way.

So, what’s Byron Allen’s net worth as things stand? An estimated $450 million.

He even owns The Weather Channel.

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In a formal statement, Allen indicated that the road to this opportunity began in 2019 when he was approached by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft about potentially buying into the league. Now, he’s the apparent frontrunner to claim a majority stake in a Broncos franchise that’s won three Super Bowl championships.

Just last week, the Bowlen family confirmed long-time speculation that they would put the team up for sale following a 38-year ownership run — and the sale will come at a historic cost. Early estimates suggest that the franchise will fetch about $4 billion, which would be the most expensive purchase in US sports history by a seriously wide margin. To see things through, Allen will have to come up 30% of the purchase price with no debt — a casual $1.2 billion.

That platinum price tag begs the question: How did Allen make so much money in the first place?

From Comedian to CEO

Byron Allen was born in Detroit but spent the majority of his youth in Los Angeles. His mother worked as a publicist at NBC Studios, and it was while accompanying her to work that he was bitten by the fame bug.

By the age of 14, Allen had assembled a tight five and started putting in work at various comedy clubs around the city. His act caught the attention of celebrated sitcom actor and comedian Jimmie Walker, who invited the young Allen to join his writing team, which included a few promising young stars by the names of Jay Leno and David Letterman.

His young career took off, and Allen made his first appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in 1979 at the age of 18.

His charismatic pull caught the eye of television execs, and he landed his first gig as a presenter on the early NBC reality series Real People later in 1979. He went on to get his own show in 1992, Kickin’ It with Byron Allen, which lasted for 21 seasons — an enviable tenure in the fickle world of Hollywood.

In 1993, Allen started Entertainment Studios, a global media company, which has since been renamed Allen Media Group. By 2018, the company boasted over $1 billion worth of holdings, a number that has only increased with subsequent key acquisitions. Under its umbrella, he’d host multiple talk-format shows, including Entertainers with Byron Allen (1993-present) and Comics Unleashed (2006-14).

Over the last 30 years, Allen Media Group’s list of media market assets is extensive and includes key holdings such as:

  • 36 ABC/NBC/CBS/FOX network affiliates in 21 markets around the country
  • 21 Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) acquired in partnership with Sinclair Broadcasting from Walt Disney/FOX Corporation in a deal worth $10.6 billion
  • The Weather Channel, acquired from NBC Universal for $300 million

And for his part, Allen has gained widespread recognition for his success. In the wake of The Weather Channel deal and his acquisition of the Bayou Broadcast Group for $195 million, he was named to the Bloomberg 50, making him one of the most noteworthy people in the worlds of business, entertainment, finance, politics, and technology.

He also holds a number of upstart 24-hour streaming television channels, including Pet.TV, Justice Central.TV, and Comedy.TV, and purchased digital media brand The Grio in 2018.

More recently, Allen Media Group is a frontrunner for a potential $10 billion deal with Tegna that would lead to the acquisition of over 65 channels across 50 markets. Just last month, the company also entered a deal with Google parent company Alphabet to help facilitate its transition to streaming.

Allen’s Assets

While his media company serves as the foundation for his wealth, Allen has also acquired a healthy real estate portfolio, with enviable properties across the United States. These include:

  • $27 million apartment on Manhattan’s Central Park West
  • $27 million chalet in Aspen
  • $23 million estate in Maui
  • A sprawling Hollywood home, for which he borrowed a reported $83 million for renovations

Collectively, Allen’s professional portfolio signals a savvy investment strategy. His position in the sports broadcasting market makes the deal especially intriguing when considered in the context of his broader portfolio.

Following Kraft and Goodell’s urging, Allen has come to the conclusion that it would be a beneficial move for him personally and professionally. But in addition, it would be a powerful opportunity for the Broncos franchise and the NFL at large. The timing is notable, as the Broncos drew attention as a named franchise in Brian Flores’ discrimination lawsuit due to his experience with the team.

For his part, Allen has a history of leading racial discrimination lawsuits against large enterprises, including Comcast and McDonald’s.

If his bid proves to be successful, Allen could be at the forefront of meaningful change at the executive ranks of the NFL as the first Black majority owner. As Allen said in his statement, “I strongly believe I can help effectuate positive changes throughout the league.”

With the backing of major players like Kraft and Goodell, could Allen make history? The chance to buy into the NFL is one of the most elusive in all of sports — but there’s buzz behind this potential bid.

Not bad for a stand-up comic.

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About The Author
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos is the Senior Director of Editorial Strategy at Boardroom. Before joining the team, her work appeared in ELLE. She previously served as the head of evaluation for a nonprofit where she became obsessed with systems and strategy and served as the curator of vibes and extinguisher of fires for the design thinking firm Stoked. She is constantly plotting a perfect tunnel ‘fit and a playlist for all occasions.