Josh Harris‘ push to acquire the Washington Commanders is nearing the goal line. The Philadelphia 76ers owner reached a sale agreement with Dan Snyder on Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).
The parties unveiled a joint announcement on the sale. Harris submitted a record-shattering bid for the franchise in late March. After Harris raised his bid to $6.05 billion in April, the NFL began reviewing it. This is an exclusive sale agreement, Mark Maske and Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post report, walling off the Harris competitors that previously lurked in these proceedings. The parties’ previous deal had kept that window open for others, but Harris had remained the frontrunner to make the deal.
Although some hiccups emerged, it does not appear they will deter the NFL from greenlighting this sale. Once NFL owners approve of the sale — as they have long been expected to — the Commanders will be transferred to Harris’ ownership group. The next owners’ meetings are set for May 22-23 in Minneapolis. This would represent the first opportunity for the owners to approve Harris, though the vetting of Harris’ large investment group is unlikely to be completed by that point.
Since his 2022 ownership group finished second in the Broncos sweepstakes, Harris has been vetted by the league. Reaching the necessary 24-vote threshold is not believed to be an issue here. Friday’s announcement makes it all but certain the Commanders will have a new owner by the start of the 2023 season, but Maske adds (via Twitter) it might take months before a ratification vote is held (Twitter link).
After the NFL finance committee met this week, issues involving Harris meeting certain requirements — this ownership group’s number of limited investors and the amount and source of the debt involved in the deal — emerged. Harris, the lead investor here, must have at least a 30% equity stake in the franchise. With the NFL eager to see Snyder moved out of the picture, concerns surrounding the multisport owner’s group have not been viewed as enough to derail an agreement.
Harris’ ownership group, which includes NBA legend Magic Johnson and billionaire Mitchell Rales, needed to outflank a bid from Canadian billionaire real estate developer Steve Apostolopoulos and another from Houston Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta. The late-emerging bid from ex-Duke basketball player Brian Davis, which raised a number of questions, never looked to be seriously considered. Harris is a Washington D.C.-area native.
“Growing up in Chevy Chase (Maryland), I experienced first-hand the excitement around the team, including its three Super Bowl victories and long-term winning culture,” Harris said. “We look forward to the formal approval of our ownership by the NFL in the months ahead and to having the honor to serve as responsible and accountable stewards of the Commanders franchise moving forward.”
While Harris’ arrival will generate intrigue, considering he also owns the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and Premier League’s Crystal Palace, Snyder’s exit will be embraced by the league. The outgoing owner’s increasingly scandal-clouded tenure — one that has also seen Washington’s on-field performance suffer throughout the unpopular leader’s run — has represented a black mark on the NFL. The House Oversight Committee recently concluded its investigation into Snyder and the Commanders, finding financial impropriety and rampant workplace misconduct, and the NFL’s second probe into the embattled owner is near completion.
An ESPN report surfaced Friday indicating Snyder seeks to prevent the NFL’s Mary Jo White-led investigation from producing a full report. The NFL’s decision to nix a written report coming out of its previous probe — one that led to a $10MM Snyder fine and a de facto suspension — brought sweeping criticism and prompted the Oversight Committee investigation and this White-run inquiry. Snyder did not cooperate with White’s investigation, and Don Van Natta and Seth Wickersham report the outgoing owner has aimed to limit the findings released to the public. But White’s report has long expected to be released. Snyder reaching a sale agreement is not known to be contingent on White’s report or protection for Snyder against future litigation.
The ESPN report that accused Snyder of gathering dirt on several owners and Roger Goodell — for leverage purposes — began the chain of events that produced this sale agreement. Snyder, who had previously said he would never sell the team, soon hired a firm to explore a sale. Although Snyder sought a reported $7 billion, he will still fetch a record-shattering price. When the Rob Walton-fronted ownership group bought the Broncos for $4.65 billion last summer, no previous NFL franchise had even sold for $3 billion. Harris’ purchase will more than double what David Tepper paid for the Panthers in 2018.
Snyder bought this franchise in 1999 for barely $800MM. Snyder’s reputation has absorbed numerous blows, and while he remains engulfed in multiple investigations, this sale obviously represents a tremendous return on investment. The NFL has never voted out an owner, and the sale will prevent the league from a serious push in this direction. Assuming the NFL OKs Harris’ purchase, he will get to work on repairing a downtrodden organization, one that has not seen consecutive playoff berths since the early 1990s.