Josh Harris, co-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils, is leading a group that has agreed to buy the Washington Commanders from owners Dan and Tanya Snyder for a record sum of $6.05 billion. The group’s purchase includes FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, as well as the team’s practice facility in Ashburn, Virginia. The deal is subject to NFL approval, with league owners set to receive an update on the sale agreement at the May 22-23 league meetings in Minneapolis. Approval by at least three-quarters of the league’s owners and other customary closing conditions will be needed for the transaction to go through.
Group members and comments
Harris’ group includes Mitchell Rales, David Blitzer, and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, as well as at least 12 limited partners. In a statement, the Snyders said, “We look forward to rooting for Josh and the team in the coming years.” Harris, who grew up in Maryland, said, “We are committed to delivering a championship-caliber franchise for this city and its fanbase.” The deal also drew praise from Hall of Fame former coach of Washington, Joe Gibbs, who said, “Josh and his team share these values and I am committed to doing what I can to re-connect this great franchise to the community, fanbase, and alumni.”
Snyder’s tenure and off-field issues
Dan Snyder led a group that purchased the team in 1999 for $800 million. The Commanders once created plenty of value, playing in five Super Bowls and winning three from 1971 to 1992. However, the past three years have been chaotic due to a series of off-field issues. The franchise announced in July 2020 that it was retiring its former nickname. Later that month, The Washington Post published a report revealing episodes of alleged sexual harassment by former team employees and highlighting a workplace culture accused of being toxic. That led to an NFL investigation of the situation, multiple stories uncovering more strife and accusations, and finally, a $10 million fine for the franchise levied by the league. The Commanders have not won a playoff game in 18 years.
Other groups’ bids and Bezos’ interest
Steve Apostolopoulos, a Canadian billionaire, and Tilman Fertitta, owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, were among other groups that had bid on the Commanders. Another anonymous group bid on the team after touring the facilities. Jeff Bezos, who had interest, did not make a bid for the team.
The Commanders have been seeking a new stadium somewhere in the D.C. area. According to multiple people involved, Dan Snyder’s presence, and the investigations into him and the franchise, had stalled the process since last year. Harris’ group’s purchase has broken the record for the sale of a sports franchise, which was previously set in August 2021 when a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton bought the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion.
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