Five groups and/or individuals who submitted bids to buy the Denver Broncos have advanced to the second round of the process, an industry source said Thursday.

Those five groups began arriving in the Denver area this week for visits that will last 1-2 days. A date for the second round of bids is undetermined but expected to take place next month.

The source, who said the Broncos drew more interest than initially expected, indicated a completed sale by the start of the regular season in September remains on track.

When the Broncos were put up for sale Feb. 1, president/CEO Joe Ellis announced that Allen & Co., and Prosakuer Rose LLP would serve as the financial and legal advisors, respectively, in seeking a new owner. The firms vetted several interested parties and identified 10 groups/individuals who were allowed to make an official bid. From there, five bids were advanced to the next step.

The five groups in round 2 are provided more information about the Broncos than in round 1 and are granted access to meet with senior management officials, are given the ability to ask questions of the bankers, lawyers and team officials, and tour the Broncos’ facility in Englewood and Empower Field at Mile High in downtown Denver.

Officials from Allen & Co., are supervising the on-site visits.

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Once the on-site visits are completed, the five groups will submit binding bids. At that point, a winning group could be selected if their bid is far and away higher than the other four competitors. Or, the group of five could be trimmed to two or three for a third round.

Asked if a sixth finalist could emerge at this stage of the process, the source said somebody brand new is unlikely, but a group whose bid didn’t advance to the second round could re-emerge with a higher bid to re-enter the process.

The Broncos, on sale for the first time since Pat Bowlen bought the team in 1984, are expected to draw a record price for a U.S. sports team, at least $4 billion and potentially $4.5 billion. The current record for an NFL team is $2.275 billion for the Carolina Panthers.

Once a winning bid is selected for the Broncos, they must meet with the NFL’s Finance Committee. If the committee approves the candidacy, it moves onto the entire ownership group and 24 teams must vote “yes” for approval.

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