The Daniel Snyder era is just about over.
Snyder and billionaire Josh Harris announced in a joint news release Friday that they have reached a deal involving the sale and purchase of the Washington Commanders, publicly formalizing an agreement that was completed last month.
Though they did not disclose the financial terms of the sale, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports last month that it is worth $6.05 billion – the largest price tag to date for the purchase of a North American professional sports franchise. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose details of the agreement.
“On behalf of our entire ownership group – including Mitch Rales, my longtime sports business partner David Blitzer and Earvin Magic Johnson – I want to express how excited we are to be considered by the NFL to be the next owners of the Washington Commanders and how committed we are to delivering a championship-caliber franchise for this city and its fanbase,” Harris said in a statement.
“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. We look forward to the formal approval of our ownership in the months ahead and to having the honor to serve as responsible and accountable stewards of the Commanders franchise moving forward.”
While the tentative deal had been in place for several weeks, Friday’s announcement signifies that the two sides have formalized the terms of their agreement, which now only needs approval from NFL ownership to be finalized.
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy wrote in an email that league staff and the ownership’s finance committee will review details of the proposed sale, which must then be ratified by at least three-quarters of NFL owners. Harris’ statement appears to indicate that vote is expected to occur in a matter of months, rather than weeks, with owners next set to convene May 22-24 in Minneapolis.
“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement for the sale of the Commanders franchise with Josh Harris, an area native, and his impressive group of partners,” Snyder and his wife, Tanya, said in a statement. “We look forward to the prompt completion of this transaction and to rooting for Josh and the team in the coming years.”
The sale marks the end of Snyder’s 24-year run as majority owner of Washington’s preeminent professional sports franchise, a rancorous tenure during which the team was frequently embroiled in one form of controversy or another.
A native Washingtonian, Snyder purchased the Commanders in 1999 for $800 million, calling it “the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me.” He took full control of the franchise in 2021 after buying out the shares held by a group of minority owners – a contentious process that ultimately spilled into federal court.
Under Snyder’s stewardship, the Commanders went from one of the NFL’s most consistent and iconic franchises to a perennial bottom-feeder. In his 24 seasons, they won 42% of their games and started 28 different quarterbacks. They hired 10 head coaches, including interims. They finished last in their division on 10 occasions. And they won just two playoff games.
Off the field, Snyder’s tenure has perhaps been even more rocky – with the Washington native becoming a villainous figure for D.C. sports fans.
A series of reports by The Washington Post in recent years uncovered allegations of harassment within the franchise, prompting the NFL to hire outside attorney Beth Wilkinson to investigate. The subsequent probe found in 2020 that “bullying and intimidation frequently took place” within the club, according to a brief summary released by the NFL, and the team was fined $10 million, among other penalties.
Meanwhile, a separate investigation by Mary Jo White is looking into allegations of financial impropriety by team officials and sexual harassment by Snyder. A former team employee claimed he made unwanted “sexual advances” on her at a team function. He denied the allegation, and White’s investigation is ongoing.
Government entities, including Democrats on the House Oversight Committee and D.C. Attorney General’s Office, have conducted parallel probes. The Commanders recently agreed to a settlement with the D.C. Attorney General’s Office related to one lawsuit, which alleged the team had withheld refundable security deposits for premium tickets. A second lawsuit, alleging the team deceived D.C. residents, remains active.
Along the way, Washington also announced that it would be ditching its old team name and logo, which had long been criticized as racially offensive, despite Snyder’s pledge to USA TODAY Sports that such a change would never occur. (“NEVER — you can use caps,” he famously said.)
The team spent one season as the Washington Football Team before being introduced as the Commanders in 2022.
It was against this chaotic backdrop, and on-field mediocrity, that Snyder announced in November that he had hired a bank to “explore potential transactions” involving the team.
Harris, who owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils, was among the frontrunners throughout the bidding process. Groups led by Houston Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta and Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos are also known to have been involved. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had mild interest in the team but ultimately never submitted a bid.
Harris’ ownership group includes more than a dozen limited partners, including Rales, who is a local businessman and philanthropist, and Johnson, the NBA legend.
“I could not be more excited to be a partner in the proposed new ownership group for the Washington Commanders,” Johnson wrote on Twitter following the announcement of the sale. “Josh Harris has assembled an amazing group who share a commitment to not only doing great things on the field but to making a real impact in the DMV community. I’m so excited to get to work on executing our vision for the Commanders and our loyal fanbase!”
The sales price of $6.05 billion is $450 million more than Forbes’ valuation of the franchise ($5.6 billion), and a significant step up from the previous record amount paid for an NFL team by Rob Walton and Greg Penner, who spent $4.65 billion on the Denver Broncos in 2021.
For Snyder, the sale represents about a 300% return on his initial investment in the team 24 years ago, when adjusted for inflation.
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
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