There were more indications over the weekend that Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder will put the entire franchise on the market, and the process could be complete by spring even as the team is subject to multiple investigations.
A group led by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — possibly with Jay-Z — is expected to be a force once the bids start rolling in, sources with knowledge of the matter told Front Office Sports. An NFL team executive told FOS that the team could potentially reach, or possibly even surpass, $7 billion.
Sources told FOS that Bezos is among at least five ownership groups lining up to bid on the Commanders and some have already reached out to Bank of America, the firm tapped by Snyder to handle the sale.
This is the first time an original six NFL franchise has gone on the market since Snyder led a group to purchase the Commanders for $800 million in 1999. That’s $1.425 billion in today’s dollars — a sum that wouldn’t even cover the mandated 30% cash needed to buy the team this time around.
While the Denver Broncos’ $4.65 billion sale earlier this year dragged on due to lawsuits and an auction, the previous NFL franchise to change hands — the Carolina Panthers — took only five months.
That 156-day span covered the time founding Panthers owner Jerry Richardson put the team up for sale in December 2017 to the owners approving the $2.275 billion purchase by hedge fund manager David Tepper in May 2018.
NFL Network and Fox Sports reported Sunday that the sale could be ready for a vote for the NFL’s annual meeting in Phoenix on March 26 — or 144 days since Snyder first signaled a potential sale on Wednesday.
But there’s no rush since the NFL can schedule a special meeting for the owners to gather to vote after the finance committee approves the sale, which is how Rob Walton’s purchase of the Broncos was approved in August.
Richardson was motivated to sell after Sports Illustrated reported allegations of workplace misconduct. Like Snyder, Richardson was the focus of an independent investigation initiated by the NFL as the sale progressed.
Snyder, however, beyond the NFL’s current probe led by former SEC chief Mary Jo White also faces investigations by the Justice Department and the House Oversight Committee, as well as probes led by the attorneys general in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C.
Sources told FOS those inquiries are unlikely to derail the sale of the Commanders and, in fact, could keep a quicker sale on track.
Snyder will likely have to put a fairly significant amount into an escrow account. The escrow money would cover any monetary penalties or damages that arise from those investigations.
Beyond escrow, sports law attorney Dan Lust told FOS that he’d recommend other legal carveouts to properly indemnify the incoming owners of the team to account for the pending investigations at the federal and state level.
“You would have to demand that of Snyder given what could be lurking around the corner,” said Lust, co-host of the Conduct Detrimental podcast and an attorney at the firm Moritt Hock & Hamroff.
In July 2021, the Commanders were fined $10 million after the NFL’s first investigation headed by former assistant U.S. Attorney Beth Wilkinson. It’s not clear when White will conclude her investigation, which is focused both on a claim of harassment made against Snyder and financial improprieties.