Alumnus Rich Slivka Talks Career, Sports, and the Super Bowl-Winning Denver Broncos

October 5, 2017

Dean Morant and Rich Slivka

Rich Slivka, JD '69, returned to his alma mater for a conversation with Dean Blake D. Morant. Dean Morant spoke with Mr. Slivka about his career and how he eventually became a part of the Denver Broncos family.  

Dean Morant began the conversation by asking Mr. Slivka about his decision to attend GW Law. Mr. Slivka attended the University of Arizona for two years and shared that a summer trip to Washington, D.C., made an impact on him. He saw many young professionals beginning their careers in D.C., and he realized that he wanted to do the same. "I fell in love with the excitement and energy that D.C. had," Mr. Slivka said. He made the decision to attend GW Law to pursue a career in tax law. After graduating, Mr. Slivka joined the criminal section of the tax division of the Justice Department. "My career started to go as I had hoped from a few years earlier."

Everything seemed to work well in Mr. Slivka's professional life, but he soon realized that earning a law degree opens many opportunities. Since Mr. Slivka already had a background in business and was a certified public accountant, he initially thought that he would pursue a career as a tax lawyer. However, he shared that he did not want to limit himself to just tax law, saying, "I saw that there were other areas of law that I found fascinating." Armed with a firm knowledge of how to prepare and try cases of all kinds, as well as a litigator's instinct for trouble spotting, Mr. Slivka then went into private practice with a colleague, doing tax, criminal, and eventually corporate litigation.

One day in 1987, one of his real estate partners walked into Mr. Slivka's office with Pat Bowlen, majority owner of the Denver Broncos of the National Football League. Mr. Bowlen was also a co-owner of a failed bank at the time. Since Mr. Bowlen had initially acquired the bank from the FDIC one year earlier, he and his partner were looking to sue the government, a costly and daunting proposition. Quickly identifying the most relevant issues, Mr. Slivka informed Mr. Bowlen this was not an asset acquisition case but rather a securities one. Mr. Slivka told Mr. Bowlen the government would make a motion for summary judgment, and, if it was denied, Mr. Bowlen would eventually win the case. The government made the motion, it was denied, and the government settled the case very favorably to Mr. Bowlen and his partner. Soon after, Mr. Bowlen transferred all of his personal, real estate, banking, tax, and corporate legal work to Mr. Slivka.

By the late 90s, Mr. Slivka's firm represented the Broncos "in just about everything." Mr. Slivka spoke about an important moment in his career when the time came for a new stadium. Legislative actions had to be taken, bonds had to be passed, and public money needed to be acquired. At that point, Mr. Bowlen took into consideration the legal work involved and knew that he and his team needed a general counsel. He offered Mr. Slivka the job.

Mr. Slivka did not accept Mr. Bowlen's offer right away, saying, "I had to think about it because I love the practice of law and I love private practice. I loved having my own business and the variety," Mr. Slivka said. He ultimately made the decision to join the Broncos and said that he has "never looked back."

Being a part of the Broncos team has allowed Mr. Slivka to create unforgettable memories. In 2016 the Broncos won the Super Bowl, and he also had the opportunity to meet former U.S. President Barack Obama and shared that it was a special moment for him. "It's been 17 years since I became general counsel in 2000. It has been a wonderful relationship with Pat Bowlen, the community, and the Broncos. I made a great decision in my career," he said.