John KimESPN staff writer6 minutes to read
A group led by NBA co-owner Josh Harris The Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils of the NHL have reached an agreement to purchase the Washington Chiefs from former owners Dan and Tanya Snyder, the two sides announced Friday.
The group agreed to pay the team a record $6.05 billion, sources told ESPN. The franchise’s previous record sale was set in August, when a conglomerate led by Walmart’s Rob Walton bought the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion.
The purchase and sale agreement agreed to by the two sides on Friday is subject to NFL approval. It likely won’t be approved at the earliest until the next league meetings, scheduled for May 22-24 in Minneapolis.
The Snyders had reached a tentative non-exclusive agreement to sell the franchise to Harris on April 14. At the time, the deal was fully funded but not yet signed.
“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement to sell the Commanders franchise with local resident Josh Harris and his wonderful group of partners,” Snyder said in a statement. “We look forward to closing this transaction quickly and to rooting for Josh and the team in the years to come.”
Harris, who grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, co-founded Apollo Management — an asset management firm — in 1990. He has a net worth of $5.8 billion, according to Forbes. Mitchell Rales, who has a net worth of $5.5 billion, and Hall of Fame basketball player Magic Johnson are also part of the Harris group.
“On behalf of the entire ownership group… I want to express how excited we are to be considered by the NFL to be the next owners of the Washington Chiefs and how committed we are to bringing a championship-caliber franchise to this city and the world,” said Harris. “Growing up in Chevy Chase, I experienced First hand the excitement around the team, including its three Super Bowl victories and its long-term winning culture. We look forward to the formal approval of our ownership by the NFL in the coming months and to being honored to be responsible and accountable agents for the Leaders franchise moving forward.”
The deal for the Leaders also includes FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, as well as the team’s training facility in Ashburn, Virginia. The leaders were looking for a new stadium somewhere in the metropolitan area. According to several people involved in the operation, the presence of Dan Snyder – and investigations into him and the franchise – has halted the operation in the past year.
Steve Apostolopoulos, a Canadian billionaire, and Tilman Fertitta, owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, were among the other groups bidding on the leaders. Sources told ESPN that another anonymous group made a bid on the team after touring the facilities.
Jeff Bezos, who had an interest, did not bid for the team.
Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment owns the 76ers and Devils. Harris and David Blitzer also own part of Premier League club Crystal Palace.
The Washington franchise, which had not won a playoff game in 18 years, was once creating a lot of value. From 1971 to 1992, the team played in five Super Bowl games, winning three. The franchise finished with a double-digit regular season winning 13 times and posting only two losing records. In 1988, coming out of a second Super Bowl, the team said the ticket queue at RFK Stadium, their home until 1996, was close to 39,000.
But the past three years have been one of the most chaotic — if not the most chaotic — periods in franchise history, thanks to a series of off-the-field issues. The franchise announced in July 2020 that it would be retiring its previous title. Later that month, The Washington Post ran a report exposing incidents of sexual harassment by former employees of the team and highlighting a workplace culture accused of being toxic. This led to the NFL investigating the situation, multiple stories revealing more strife and accusations, and finally, a $10 million fine for the franchise imposed by the league.
In October 2021, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, led by former chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), began investigating the leaders. This investigation led to Snyder being charged with sexual misconduct as well as financial misconduct by him. This has led prosecutors in Virginia and the District of Columbia to launch their own investigations. Later, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia opened a criminal investigation into the leaders’ allegations of financial impropriety.
Snyder named his wife, Tanya, as co-CEO in 2020, and she’s been the public face of the franchise ever since. She represented the team in league events for over a year. The last time Dan Snyder spoke publicly was to introduce the team’s new name on February 2, 2022.
For a long time, NFL owners didn’t seem willing to vote one out for the first time in league history. But in league meetings in October, Colts owner Jim Irsay said of Snyder, “There is merit in removing him as owner.” According to multiple league sources, there was growing fatigue from putting leaders on.
The Snyders issued a statement during this period, insisting that they would never sell. They abruptly changed their minds in November by announcing the team was for sale.
Dan Snyder led a group that bought the team in 1999 for $800 million. He arrived in the NFL as a hardened young stuntman who grew up famous as a die-hard fan of the franchise.
Washington won the NFC East title that season with a 10-6 record, but the franchise could not maintain success under Snyder. He was known early in his tenure for changing coaches and hiring big-name agents for free. In his first five years of owning the team, he sacked Norv Turner in 2000 and Marty Schottenheimer a year later and saw the resignation of Steve Spurrier after two seasons.
Snyder’s first free agent class included such famous veterans as future Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith. Later, Washington gave defensive line free agent Albert Hainsworth a record $41 million in guaranteed money.
But the aggressive nature didn’t lead to success, though Snyder also hired coaches like Joe Gibbs, coach of three Super Bowl championships in Washington, and Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls in Denver.
Washington has never won more than 10 games in a season and has only reached that mark three times in 24 years. They haven’t won more than nine games since 2012. Washington went 2-6 in playoff games during Snyder’s tenure. It has not won a playoff game since 2005 under Gibbs.
The Leaders finished 8-8-1 last season under head coach Ron Rivera, and he is entering his fourth year at the helm.
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