Jeff Bezos didn’t place a bid for the Washington Commanders ahead of last month’s deadline, sources with knowledge of the process told Front Office Sports.
But that doesn’t mean the Amazon founder is out of the running for embattled Dan Snyder’s franchise.
None of the half-dozen bids submitted for the Commanders before the first-round deadline on Dec. 23 exceeded $6.3 billion, one source said.
There are two main reasons why:
- Bezos didn’t come strong with a huge number, setting up a situation where he’d initiate an early bidding war, sources told FOS.
- The same sources said some other billionaires interested in the Commanders have realized that getting public financing for a new stadium could be difficult. A domed stadium, like the one Snyder had plans to build, is estimated to cost $3 billion.
The first time Bezos explored a piece of the franchise, it didn’t work out.
In February 2021, FOS reported that an attorney working on behalf of Bezos inquired about a minority interest in the team.
The animus between Snyder and the $121 billion net worth mogul could be the reason that didn’t work out and why a deal for Bezos to acquire all of the team may not either.
“Dan Snyder detests The Washington Post [owned by Bezos],” a source told NBC Sports’ Peter King. “No way he’d sell to the owner of that paper.”
A banker told FOS in November that Snyder holding out on Bezos is possible “if the bids weren’t that far apart,” but Snyder isn’t likely to leave tens or hundreds of millions on the table out of spite.
There’s also been no official word from Snyder that he intends to sell at least a controlling stake in the franchise, although many around the league expect such.
“We are not commenting on anything related to a potential transaction,” a Commanders spokesperson told FOS.
Messages left with Bank of America and a Bezos attorney were not returned.
After Snyder announced in November that the team would explore a franchise sale, some estimates suggest the winning bid could reach $8 billion, which would easily set a worldwide sales record for a sports franchise.
Currently, the priciest franchise to change hands is Chelsea FC. Todd Boehly finalized a $5.3 billion purchase of the Premier League franchise in May.
The Interested Parties
FOS could not confirm who submitted bids to Bank of America, which is handling the sales process on Snyder’s behalf. Beyond Bezos, the other super-rich individuals linked to the team include:
- Boehly, already a co-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, Dodgers and Sparks, is reportedly interested in the Commanders. He was among the finalists for the Denver Broncos. The Broncos were ultimately acquired by a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton for $4.65 billion last year.
- Clearlake Capital co-founders Behdad Eghbali and José Feliciano were also interested in the Broncos and the Commanders in the past. The two offered $900 million to purchase a 40% stake in the Commanders in 2020.
- John Henry, the principal owner of the Fenway Sports Group, could be looking for an NFL team to add to his stable of sports properties. He owns the Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Penguins, and a NASCAR team. Henry is in the process of selling Liverpool FC.
The NFL Constitution and Bylaws require that one individual who will become a club’s principal owner must have 30% of the total price in cash.
At $6.3 billion, that equates to $1.89 billion — an amount that can be hard to come up with in short order, even for the uber-rich.
Snyder’s Downward Spiral
Snyder made much of his fortune with Snyder Communications Inc., an advertising and marketing firm he co-founded with his sister, Michelle. Snyder became the youngest to ever own an NFL team at age 34 with his purchase of the Commanders for $800 million in 1999.
He took over a team with a waiting list for season tickets among the league’s top draws. Slowly, that began to change as the losing seasons mounted under Snyder.
- In Snyder’s 24 seasons as owner, they went to the playoffs just six times with just one postseason win.
- In recent seasons, the lack of on-field success has been met with a string of controversies.
- From the former team name that Snyder vowed never to change to toxic workplace allegations, the franchise became a growing concern among NFL owners.
The Commanders were fined $10 million in July 2021 after the first outside NFL investigation into the franchise’s workplace culture. Snyder stepped away from his duties as his wife, Tanya, took over as co-CEO when the fine and recommendations were announced to fix the team’s issues.
But a slew of other investigations followed, including a lengthy Congressional probe that concluded in December. That investigation uncovered allegations of financial improprieties that FOS first reported in March.
Snyder denied any wrongdoing, and one of his attorneys called Congress’ investigation “a politically inspired hatchet job.”
“Our report tells the story of a team rife with sexual harassment and misconduct, a billionaire owner intent on deflecting blame, and an influential organization that chose to cover this up rather than seek accountability and stand up for employees,” said Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the House Oversight Committee at the time of the final report’s release.
Snyder remains under investigation by a second outside NFL investigation led by former SEC chief Mary Jo White. There’s no timetable on when that probe will conclude.
A Low Profile
Snyder had fallen out of favor with most NFL owners well before the report from Congress dropped.
Privately, owners told FOS and other outlets that they’d favor removing Snyder. Colts owner Jim Irsay became the first to say so publicly back in October.
While the headlines garnered from Congress’s probe didn’t help, many of the league’s other owners had grown concerned over the drop in profile — and revenues — from one of the league’s historic franchises.
- Snyder, who was supposed to focus on a new stadium with his wife in charge, could not secure a route toward public funding in Virginia last year even as teams like the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans scored guarantees in the hundreds of millions.
- The inability to make inroads on a planned $3 billion domed stadium, teamed with shrinking ticket proceeds, has left Snyder as arguably the least-popular owner in the league.
Snyder wasn’t on the field next to one of his top allies, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, at the Commanders’ season finale on Jan. 7. There was actually no indication that Snyder — who has spent increasingly more time in London in recent months — was even at the game.
From the start of the sales process, some have been hesitant to count on Snyder actually selling at least enough to cede control of the team. While the bids may not be as lofty as early projections, there’s still time for that amount to grow.
Even if it doesn’t, that may not matter.
The reasoning: Many around the league feel Snyder has become disengaged since he put the franchise on the market, indicating that a sale appears likely.