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Harris Group Reaches Deal on Commanders

  • A new era for Washington Commanders, as Dan Snyder to sell team after 24 years.
  • Deal expected to be a worldwide record sale for a sports franchise.
Josh Harris's Commanders bid is with the league office.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After 24 tumultuous years, Dan Snyder’s reign as owner of the Commanders ended on Friday. 

A group led by Josh Harris and Snyder finalized a sale agreement, according to a joint news release. While terms of the deal were not disclosed, sources told Front Office Sports Harris’ group agreed to pay $6.05 billion for the franchise — a worldwide record sale price for a sports franchise. 

“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement for the sale of the Commanders franchise with Josh Harris, an area native, and his impressive group of partners”, Tanya and Dan Snyder said in a statement. “We look forward to the prompt completion of this transaction and to rooting for Josh and the team in the coming years.”

The deal had been tentative for several weeks before all the details were worked out in recent days.

“On behalf of our entire ownership group — including Mitch Rales, my longtime sports business partner David Blitzer and Earvin Magic Johnson — I want to express how excited we are to be considered by the NFL to be the next owners of the Washington Commanders and how committed we are to delivering a championship-caliber franchise for this city and its fanbase,” Harris said in a statement.

“Growing up in Chevy Chase, I experienced first-hand the excitement around the team, including its three Super Bowl victories and long-term winning culture. We look forward to the formal approval of our ownership by the NFL in the months ahead and to having the honor to serve as responsible and accountable stewards of the Commanders franchise moving forward.”

The final agreement comes ahead of the next NFL owners meeting scheduled to begin in Minnesota on May 22. A league source told FOS that owners would be briefed on the sale, although a vote will unlikely occur at the meetings. 

The more likely scenario is that a special meeting will be called this summer, much like how the Denver Broncos’ new ownership was approved last August.   

Before Harris takes over the team, at least 24 owners must approve the deal. Sources told FOS that it’s a mere formality, and the deal will clear the three-fourths threshold — if it doesn’t get unanimous approval. 

Harris’ group was already known to include billionaire Rales, Johnson, security firm exec Mark Ein, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the Santo Domingo family who made a fortune in the South American beer industry, and the rental property firm founder Mitchell Morgan. 

The most notable addition announced Friday wasn’t all that unexpected in Blitzer. Blitzer already co-owns multiple teams with Harris, including the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers. 

The others include Lee Ainslie, Eric Holoman, Michael Li,  the Morgan family (owners of Morgan Properties), and exchange trade company co-founder Michael Sapir and Andy Snyder. 

The statement said others were involved in the process, although a source told FOS that the list was under the NFL cutoff for limited partners (24).

There are still multiple ongoing investigations into the team, including a federal probe led by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and a second outside NFL investigation by former SEC chief Mary Jo White. 

While there’s no timetable for the release of the White report, one source told FOS that it may not come out until much later this year.

There’s some thought that releasing it before or right after Harris’ purchase is finalized by NFL owners would interrupt the honeymoon period with a reminder of the team’s toxic workplace and alleged financial misconduct under Snyder.

The same source, however, said the report will come out, and indications are White found many more issues with the Commanders than has previously been disclosed.

One source with knowledge of the deal told FOS that indemnification wasn’t likely a part of Harris’ deal to purchase, a legal maneuver that would have covered some — or all — of fines leveled against the team. 

The Snyders announced in November that they would explore a franchise sale and were seeking as much as $7 billion for the franchise.

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Bankers privately laughed that the franchise would go for that. Commanders had languished under Snyder as the team went to the playoffs just six times in 24 seasons under Snyder. Meanwhile, team revenues slid steadily, a chunk of that due to attendance that sank to last — or close to the last — in recent seasons. 

There’s also the need for a new stadium, something Snyder could not attain — especially when attempting to gain public financing. A bill in the Virginia legislature that would have provided $300 million for an effort to put a domed stadium in Northern Virginia was shelved last June. 

But minus Snyder’s baggage, plans for a new stadium opened with Friday’s announcement as politicians Vignina, Maryland, and D.C. are expected to try to lure the Commanders to their respective jurisdictions.

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