John KeimESPN staff writer6 minutes of reading
The team is led by NBA co-owner Josh Harris The Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils have reached an agreement to purchase the Washington Commanders from previous owners Dan and Tanya Snyder, it was announced Friday.
The team agreed to pay the team $6.05 billion, sources told ESPN. The previous record sale for a franchise was set in August, when a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton bought the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion.
The purchase and sale agreement struck by the Harris team and Snyders on Friday is subject to NFL approval. It won’t be ratified until the next league meetings, scheduled for May 22-23 in Minneapolis. It would require the approval of at least three-quarters of the league’s owners and other customary closing conditions.
Snyder’s Company reached a preliminary non-exclusive agreement to sell the franchise to Harris on April 14. At that time, the contract was fully funded but not yet signed.
“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Josh Harris, an area native, and his impressive partners to sell the Commanders franchise,” Snyder’s said in a statement. “We look forward to closing this transaction quickly and to Josh and the team in the years to come.”
Raised in Maryland, Harris co-founded Apollo Management — an asset management firm — in 1990. According to Forbes, his net worth is $5.8 billion. Mitchell Rales, who has a net worth of $5.5 billion, along with Harris owns part of the English Premier League’s Crystal Palace FC, David Blitzer, and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson on Harris’ board. At least 12 limited partners are also part of the group.
“On behalf of our entire franchise team … I want to express how excited we are to be considered by the NFL as the next owners of the Washington Commanders and how committed we are to delivering a championship-caliber franchise to this city and its fan base,” Harris said. “Growing up at Chevy Chase, I experienced firsthand the excitement surrounding the team, including its three Super Bowl victories and long-standing winning culture. We look forward to formal approval of our franchise by the NFL in the coming months. The Commanders are honored to serve as responsible and accountable stewards of the franchise moving forward.”
The deal for the Commanders also includes FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland and the team’s practice facility in Ashburn, Virginia. The Commanders are looking for a new stadium somewhere in the DC area. According to several people involved in the process, Don Snyder’s presence — and investigations into him and the franchise — stalled the process over the past year.
Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos and Tilmon Fertitta, owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, are among other groups that have bid for the Commanders. Another anonymous group made a bid for the team after touring the facilities, sources told ESPN.
An enthusiastic Jeff Bezos did not bid for the team.
Washington’s franchise, which hasn’t won a playoff game in 18 years, once produced plenty of value. From 1971 to 1992, the team played in five Super Bowls and won three. The franchise had 13 wins with double-digit regular season wins and posted just two losing records. From the second Super Bowl in 1988 until 1996, the team said the waiting list for tickets at RFK Stadium, their home, was close to 39,000.
But the last three years have been one of the most — if not the — most tumultuous in franchise history, thanks to a series of off-field issues. In July 2020 the franchise announced the retirement of its previous nickname. Later that month, The Washington Post published a report revealing episodes of sexual harassment by former team employees and highlighting an allegedly toxic workplace culture. This led to an NFL investigation into the situation, several stories that revealed more fights and accusations, and finally, a $10 million fine to the franchise levied by the league.
In October 2021, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, chaired by former Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), began investigating the commanders. That investigation led to allegations of sexual abuse in addition to Snyder’s financial irregularities. This led the attorneys general in Virginia and the District of Columbia to launch their own investigations. Later, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia opened a criminal investigation into allegations of financial irregularities by the commanders.
Snyder named his wife, Tanya, as co-CEO in 2020, and she has been the public face of the franchise since that time. He represented the team in league functions for over a year. The last time Dan Snyder spoke publicly was to introduce the team’s new name on February 2, 2022.
For a long time, NFL owners were unwilling to vote for one of their own for the first time in league history. But at league meetings in October, Colts owner Jim Irsay said of Snyder: “There’s merit in firing him as an owner.” According to multiple league sources, fatigue is growing with the generals’ situation.
During this period the Snyders issued a statement insisting that they would never sell. They suddenly changed their thinking by announcing in November that the team was for sale.
A group led by Dan Snyder purchased the team in 1999 for $800 million. He arrived in the NFL as a young, tough businessman who grew famous as a die-hard fan of the franchise.
Washington won the NFC East title that season with a 10-6 record, but the franchise could never sustain a winning streak under Snyder. Early in his tenure he became known for switching coaches and signing non-big name agents. In his first five years of owning the team, he fired Norv Turner in 2000 and Marty Schottenheimer a year later and Steve Spurrier resigned after two seasons.
Snyder’s first free agent class included big-name players like future Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith. Washington then gave free agent defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth $41 million in guaranteed money.
Although Snyder hired coaches like Joe Gibbs, coach of three Super Bowl championships in Washington, and Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls in Denver, the aggressive nature did not bring success.
Washington has never won more than 10 games in a season and reached that mark only three times in his 24 years. They haven’t won more than nine games since 2012. Washington went 2-6 in playoff appearances during Snyder’s tenure; Gibbs hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005.
The Chiefs finished 8-8-1 last season under coach Ron Rivera, who is entering his fourth year at the helm.