NFL owners have grown increasingly concerned over the pace of the Washington Commanders sale, fueled by reports that owner Dan Snyder won’t allow Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bid for the franchise.
Bezos, however, remains in the mix for the Commanders, two sources with knowledge of the situation told Front Office Sports. One of those sources said that news that Snyder wouldn’t sell to Bezos amounts to a ploy to get a high bid out of the Amazon founder.
There are indications that the sales process, which is now 117 days old, is at a critical juncture. Snyder and Bank of America — the firm hired to facilitate a sale — have narrowed the list of bidders down in recent weeks.
There’s another option, and some have theorized could happen since the start: Snyder could decide to keep the team, something one source said has vexed some NFL owners.
While it’s still believed that Snyder will ultimately decide to sell, bids haven’t come close to the $7 billion figure sources previously told FOS he is seeking. Snyder was disappointed by the early bids, one FOS source confirmed.
FOS reported that the highest bid when the first round of bidding closed in December was $6.3 billion.
But it’s unclear who bid that amount and what the bid’s status is now. Just as bidders drop off during the due diligence process, bids are adjusted or withdrawn for several reasons, the leading typically being unable to come up with the cash needed to buy an NFL team.
The NFL Constitution and Bylaws mandate that 30% of the purchase price for a team must be liquid. For example, if the team sells for $6 billion, the new owner must have $1.8 billion in cash when the sale is finalized. The rest can be financed, and/or co-owners can be added as part of an ownership group.
The Washington Post reported last week that Allen & Co. is advising Bezos, and the fact he didn’t enter the early bidding wasn’t a surprise. With a net worth of $117 billion, he’d be the most straightforward route.
That’s been recognized by those around the league, who one source said have encouraged Bezos and his representatives to remain engaged in the process.
Josh Harris — the owner of the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers — and Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta are also interested in the Commanders.
The Washington Post reported on Saturday that Fertitta’s bid was for slightly more than $5.5 billion. Harris’ bid hasn’t been made public.
Snyder is no fan of Bezos, who has owned The Washington Post for a decade as the outlet has run stories detailing the team’s toxic work culture that snowballed into several other investigations as Snyder’s grasp of the franchise was put at risk.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified before Congress as part of a probe by the House Oversight Committee that concluded in December. Then-Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney said in a statement that Snyder was “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,”
But an effort to remove Snyder as owner — something that has never been done and requires 24 owners to approve — was shelved when Snyder announced he was exploring a sale of the team.
But the investigations haven’t gone away. An outside NFL investigation led by former SEC Chief Mary Jo White remains ongoing after over a year.
Potentially, the most problematic active probe is the one led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern Virginia. At least one subpoena was issued as part of that investigation into the Commanders over alleged financial irregularities.
None of the investigations would hold up a sale and could make it more likely.
But Snyder not selling will rankle many NFL owners who have grown tired of the controversies, the team’s inability to make inroads toward a new stadium, and how far the team has fallen in stature since Snyder bought the franchise for $800 million in 1999.
Ultimately, it may not be up to Snyder to decide the future of his franchise. For now, he has the chance to sell the Commanders for a worldwide record price for a sports franchise that comes with bragging rights and fewer headaches later.