John Elway is a retired American football player with a $145 million net worth. He now serves as the Denver Broncos general manager and president of football operations. Elway was a highly successful quarterback during his career, setting numerous records until retiring in 1999.
John earned a total of $47 million in compensation during his NFL career. During his playing days, he earned tens of millions of dollars in additional money via endorsements. He has made and lost large riches in outside business investments outside of professional athletics. We’ll go through these transactions in more detail later in this post.
John Elway was born on June 28th, 1960, in Port Angeles, Washington, alongside his twin sister. From an early age, John witnessed his father’s success as a football coach while growing up with his twin and older sister. Because John’s father, Jack, was a football coach at the University of Montana and Washington State, the family moved about a lot.
As a high school quarterback, John Elway established himself as a “dual-threat” quarterback who could pass and run at the same time. Elway also excelled as a baseball player during his high school years. Hundreds of colleges had mailed him football scholarship offers by the time he was ready to graduate.
He finally enrolled at Stanford University and rose to the position of starting quarterback. Even though his final game for Stanford was marred by a controversial play that resulted in the team’s loss, he established an excellent record that earned interest from the NFL. He also continued to flourish on the baseball field, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics in the process.
John Elway was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the 1983 NFL Draft, but he persuaded them to trade him right away. If he wasn’t traded, he vowed to play for the New York Yankees (Elway still could play professional baseball). He was eventually moved to the Denver Broncos, fulfilling his dream.
Elway fought to establish himself as the team’s starting quarterback early in his time with the Broncos. When Steve DeBerg had a shoulder injury, Elway stepped in and guided the team to the 1986 Superbowl. The Broncos returned to the Super Bowl in 1987 but were lost for the second time. In 1989, they returned to the Superbowl but were defeated in a humiliating setback. Elway was still a young man at this stage in his career, and some questioned if he would ever win a Super Bowl.
Over the next few years, though, he gained vital expertise and confidence. He guided his club back to the Superbowl in 1997, and he finally achieved the victory he had hoped for. Elway’s performance once again fell short of expectations – but that didn’t matter. The Broncos had triumphed. Elway had one of his best seasons the following year when he won the Superbowl for the second time. In what turned out to be his final game, he was chosen MVP.
Under the name John Elway Autos, John Elway founded five car dealerships. The dealerships, which were located in Denver, were sold to AutoNation in 1997 for $82.5 million. Elway’s name may also be used as a marketing tool by AutoNation until 2006. Elway was able to re-enter the auto dealership market under his name after the arrangement expired in 2006.
John went on to open two Toyota Scion dealerships in California, a Chevrolet dealership in Colorado, a Chrysler Jeep dealership in Colorado, and a Cadillac franchise under the Sonic Automotive brand name in the years that followed.
Potential Broncos Ownership:
John Elway had the chance to buy a piece of the Denver Broncos franchise that would have been tremendously valuable in the long run. As John’s career came to an end in the late 1990s, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen offered to sell Elway a 10% ownership in the organization for $15 million.
If Elway had walked away from the $21 million in compensation he was promised at the time, the arrangement would have offered him the chance to gain a further 10%. He would have also served as Bowlen’s special assistant and the Broncos’ COO (which would of course come with a salary of its own).
Potential Ownership of Broncos:
In other words, if John contributed $15 million in cash and agreed to forego $21 million in future earnings, he would own 20% of the Broncos. That’s almost $36 million for a 20 percent stake in an NFL team. Pat Bowlen valued the Broncos at $180 million based on those figures.
Elway was even able to resell his stake with a $5 million markup and an annual interest rate of 8% since the purchase. Finally, if the Bowlen family decides to sell the entire franchise, Elway will get first dibs. The deal was not pursued by Elway.
This proved to be a disastrous decision. The Broncos are worth $3 billion as of this writing. Would a 20 percent stake in the company be worth $600 million now if Elway had gotten it?
Years later, many spectators were perplexed as to why John never wrote anything down. These analysts also pointed out that Elway had the $15 million on hand — in fact, a year before Pat Bowlen offered the deal, he sold several auto dealerships for over $80 million. Elway defended himself by saying he didn’t agree to the arrangement because he didn’t see a role for himself in the Broncos’ management ranks.
Other Disastrous Investments:
Over the years, John Elway has made several bad investments. One of the most famous was his choice to invest $15 million in a Ponzi scheme (the same amount he could have put into a 10% Broncos ownership). He ended up losing $7 million before being able to recover $6 million.
He put a lot of money into a new company named Laundromax in 1998, but it didn’t take off. In the same year, he spent $500,000 for over 130,000 shares of Que Pasa, a Latin-language media company. By the year 2000, Elway’s stock had plummeted from $27 to $1, resulting in a massive loss.
Elway put millions of dollars on a website called MVP.com in 1999, but it was immediately shut down. He was also a co-owner of the Colorado Crush, an Arena Football League team that went bankrupt after the league was shut down.