Report: Snyder agrees to $6B sale of Commanders
Buyers group led by Josh Harris includes Magic Johnson
Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder has agreed to sell the Ashburn-based NFL team for a record-breaking $6 billion, according to several news reports Thursday. The buyers are a group of investors that includes NBA legend Magic Johnson and is led by two Maryland billionaires, Apollo Global Management co-founder Josh Harris and Danaher Corp. co-founder Mitchell Rales.
Sportico, a sports business website, broke the news Thursday afternoon, and The New York Times released a story about half an hour later reporting the purchase agreement, a record-setting amount for any professional sports franchise. In late March, ESPN reported two $6 billion offers for the Commanders, including Harris’ offer and a second bid by Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos.
The team’s reported buyers are a group led by Harris, who is based in Bethesda, Maryland, and also owns the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, and Rales of Potomac, Maryland.
In recent days, The Washington Post and others reported that Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, who had previously indicated interest in the team, had decided not to make an offer.
Snyder, the team’s owner since 1999, and the team’s head office have come under scrutiny by the NFL and Congress for alleged sexual harassment and fostering a hostile work environment. His wife, Tanya, took over as co-CEO of the team in 2021, after the NFL’s $10 million fine of the team for an “improper” and “highly unprofessional” workplace culture. At the time, there seemed to be little appetite among team owners to force the Snyders to sell. According to NFL bylaws, it would take the agreement of 24 team owners to oust another owner.
In November 2022, Dan and Tanya Snyder hired Bank of America Securities to consider potential sales, the Ashburn-based NFL team announced. Any sale would require approval of three-fourths of the 31 team owners.
According to The New York Times, the Harris group must submit its proposal to the NFL’s finance committee, followed by the entire group of owners. That could take place in the next several weeks; the owners are set to meet May 22-23 in Minneapolis.
Harris, co-founder of Apollo Global Management and a Bethesda, Maryland, native, and Rales, a resident of Potomac, Maryland, who is a co-founder of Danaher Corp., are the major funders of the deal, according to reports. The same group, which includes former L.A. Laker Johnson as a limited partner, made a failed bid to buy the Denver Broncos last year. That team went to Walmart heir Rob Walton for $4.65 billion, setting a sales record for an NFL sports team.
Apostolopoulos, the other Commanders bidder, founded Six Ventures Inc., a private equity fund, and is managing partner of the Toronto-based real estate firm Triple Group of Cos. He was previously interested in purchasing the Charlotte Hornets team, ESPN reported.
Of particular interest to Virginians may be the prospect of a future stadium in the commonwealth. Although the General Assembly backed off a generous incentive package to lure the Commanders’ next stadium to Virginia while Snyder and his team were being investigated by Congress and the NFL, a new owner may change the equation. The team has a contract to continue playing at Landover, Maryland’s FedEx Field until the end of the 2026 season, but the team has been open about wanting to build a new stadium. Gov. Glenn Youngkin proposed $500,000 in state funding to study ways to encourage the team to build in Northern Virginia, funding that could be included in the state’s 2024 budget.
In December 2022, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a report finding that “sexual harassment, bullying and other toxic conduct” took place in the franchise’s operations, and that Dan Snyder attempted to intimidate witnesses in the congressional investigation. The NFL also launched a second probe of the team in February 2022, led by Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Earlier this week, the L.A. Galaxy soccer team announced it had hired the Commanders’ chief creative and digital officer, Will Misselbrook, as its chief creative and content officer. He was tapped in May 2021 to lead the team’s rebrand after it dropped the name Redskins in favor of the Washington Football Team and later the Commanders.