Pat Bowlen, the Denver Broncos owner who won two Super Bowls and oversaw one of the NFL's most consistently competitive franchises, has given up control of the team to continue his battle of Alzheimer's disease.
The The Denver Post first reported the story early Wednesday morning.
"As many in the Denver community and around the National Football League have speculated, my husband, Pat, has very bravely and quietly battled Alzheimer's disease for the last few years," Annabel Bowlen said in a statement released through the Broncos. "He has elected to keep his condition private because he has strongly believed, and often said, 'It's not about me.'
"Pat has always wanted the focus to be solely on the Denver Broncos and the great fans who have supported this team with such passion during his 30 years as owner. My family is deeply saddened that Pat's health no longer allows him to oversee the Broncos, which has led to this public acknowledgment of such a personal health condition."
Joe Ellis, the Broncos' team president since 2011, takes over the day-to-day operations of the team and also was named the Broncos' chief executive officer serving as the team's representative on all league matters. The longtime owner's stake in the team was placed in the Pat Bowlen Trust, according to a statement from the team, with the intention for the franchise to be taken over by one of his seven children. The team is not expected to be up for sale.
"Plans for this trust were arranged by Mr. Bowlen beginning more than a decade ago as part of his succession plan to keep the Broncos in the Bowlen family," according to a Broncos' statement.
Since Bowlen bought the team in 1984, the Broncos have won more than 300 games and been to six Super Bowls. The franchise won its first two championships behind quarterback John Elway, who now serves as the team's general manager and executive vice president of football operations, in 1997 and '98.
"It's a really, really sad day," Ellis said, per the Post. "It's sad for his family, his wife and his seven children. It's sad for everyone in the organization. And it's sad for all the Bronco fans who know what Pat Bowlen meant to them as an owner. It's a day nobody wanted to see happen."
The Broncos are scheduled to report to training camp Wednesday.