The favorite of the five candidates running for the Denver Broncos is widely believed to be Walmart heir Rob Walton (a theory supported by the fact that his sons Ben and Sam live in Colorado), followed by billionaires Josh Harris, whose partners include basketball legend Magic Johnson and new Chelsea FC owner Todd Boehly. Two other hopefuls weren’t originally named publicly, but one of them has now been identified as a group led by entrepreneur Byron Allen, who expressed his interest in buying the franchise at a number of appearances earlier this year, including one at CBS Sunday morning.
Allen is considered an outsider in part because he’s a real beggar compared to Walton, Harris, and Boehly; his nest egg is estimated at $450 million, or less than 7 percent of Walton’s estimated net worth of $70 billion. He would need a lot of help from very wealthy friends to become a serious contender.
But Allen, who is black, should be taken seriously in part because his efforts have earned NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s blessing amid the league’s ongoing, PR-driven diversity campaign; This week’s Coach and Front Office Accelerator, an Atlanta-based seminar/meet-and-greet with sixty potential head coaches and general managers from black and franchise owners who are all white, is another example. And even if Allen doesn’t land the Broncos, he may soon get a shot at another team — a development that would add an intriguing chapter to a personal success story in which he turned his minor fame as a comedian and TV host into impressive media empire.
Detroit native Byron Allen Folks (he dropped the surname professionally) grew up in Los Angeles; He had early access to show business thanks to his mother, Carolyn Folks, who worked as a publicist for NBC. He began developing a stand-up routine at fourteen, and television personality Jimmie Walker hired him as a writer while he was still in high school. But he wasn’t interested in staying behind the scenes, and in 1979, when he was eighteen, he made his television debut The Tonight Showhosted by Johnny Carson.
Here is a clip from an Allen performance on the same program in 1980.
At the time of this appearance, Allen was already a regular on NBC Real people, a reality show of sorts that focused on “real people” with odd hobbies or occupations. He was one of the program’s hosts from 1979 to 1984, but as in a CSQ Magazine profile from 2019, he also provided jokes as the opening act for celebrities such as Lionel Richie, Dolly Parton and Sammy Davis Jr.
By 1993, Allen had formed Entertainment Studios, a company whose primary product was Entertainers starring Byron Allen, which he described as “this hour-long, once-a-week show where I interview seven movie stars about their latest projects.” The success of this offering spawned many others; As of 2019 he had a staggering 65 shows on the airwaves including Comics unleashed with Byron Allen, The American athlete and Funny you should ask.
Still, Allen’s biggest deal came in March 2018 when he raised $318 million to buy The Weather Channel, the most prestigious item in his portfolio. And he wasn’t afraid to fight against power, as shown by separate $10 billion racial discrimination lawsuits filed against Comcast and Charter Communications; the complaints were settled in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Entertainment Studios is still a going concern. Today, however, Allen’s primary focus is Allen Media Group, formed in 2019, which, according to an April press release, “has embarked on a unique journey through acquisitions — including the annexation of 27 local channels in 21 markets in recent years. His deals included the purchase of 21 regional sports channels from Walt Disney/FOX Corporation, executed in conjunction with Sinclair Broadcast Group. The price was around $10.6 billion — more than double the estimated 4-5 Billions of dollars the Broncos are expected to sell for.
There’s no question that Allen, who was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year, loves the spotlight, and he’s not shy about commenting on his interest in the Broncos. But if he’s outbid for this team, his dreams of diversifying the NFL ownership club aren’t necessarily over. This week, CBS Sports reported that members of this exclusive clique may be on the verge of forcing Daniel Snyder to sell the Washington Commanders (formerly the Washington Redskins and Washington Football Team) over “damning reports and allegations…including but not limited to.” a toxic culture with its own cheerleaders; and another recent blockbuster claim that Snyder and the Commanders kept two separate ledgers — presumably in an effort to keep portions of the revenue from other owners in the revenue-sharing construct.
Should Snyder win the bid, Allen would be a popular choice to become the chief of commanders. Unless he defies expectations and ends up with the Broncos.