Snyder, Harris Sign $6 Billion Commanders Purchase Agreement

Josh Harris has cleared another major hurdle in his pursuit of the Washington Commanders.

Harris’ group has a signed purchase and sale agreement with current owners Dan and Tanya Snyder, the two sides jointly announced Friday. The group includes more than a dozen limited partners, including Blackstone exec David Blitzer, Harris’s main partner in the 76ers and Devils.

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The deal still needs approval from at least 24 of the 32 owners. And while the NFL has concerns over the Harris bid, particularly about the size of his group, many within the process viewed getting Snyder to formally agree to sell the team as the single largest hurdle remaining.

“We look forward to the formal approval of our ownership by the NFL in the months ahead,” Harris said in a statement on behalf of the ownership group. “Thank you to Tanya and Dan Snyder and the staff of the Commanders for their partnership and cooperation throughout the sale process.”

If the deal closes, it would be the highest price ever paid for a sports team, eclipsing the $4.6 billion that Rob Walton paid for the NFL’s Denver Broncos last year. It will also end Snyder’s 24-year ownership tenure, which has soured as fans and fellow owners distanced themselves amid allegations of a hostile workplace culture and financial wrongdoing.

Harris’ group is comprised of more than a dozen limited partners, including multi-billionaire Mitchell Rales, former NBA star Magic Johnson, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, D.C. investor Mark Ein, real estate CEO Mitchell Morgan, and the Santo Domingo family, one of the richest families in South America. Others, according to the statement, include Lee Ainslie, Eric Holoman, Michael Li, Andy Snyder and Michael Sapir. Collectively, the group is worth well north of $45 billion, according to Bloomberg’s billionaires index.


While that number is lower than the cap table of some other NFL teams, and under the ~25-owner league limit, the NFL prefers smaller groups to larger ones. The league has been reviewing parts of the deal for the past few weeks, and the NFL’s finance committee discussed the purchase at a meeting earlier this week.

The league’s concerns shows just how expensive it is to buy NFL teams given the league’s rules and its soaring valuations. The NFL views its clubs as family-run business, and as such, prefers smaller cap tables led by people with the personal liquidity to purchase and maintain the team and its adjacent businesses, including real estate, stadiums and other facilities. In addition to more privacy, the NFL believes that structure allows for cleaner cap tables, cleaner management and decision-making, and when necessary, cleaner estate planning. That preference was established when NFL teams were selling for millions, and remains true today, even with the average club now worth $4.1 billion.

The NFL has historically maintained stricter rules for new buyers than the other major leagues. Purchase agreements can only include up to $1.1 billion in debt, and the control owner (in this case, Harris) needs to hold at least 30% of the equity. In the NBA and MLB for reference, that limit is 15%; in other leagues, there is no limit. To make it easier to finance purchases, every other major U.S. league outside the NFL has changed its ownership rules to allow institutional investors, such as private equity firms.

Harris, the co-founder of Apollo Global Management, grew up in the D.C. area and has been looking to grow his sports portfolio beyond Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns the NBA’s 76ers, the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center. He is also an investor in English soccer club Crystal Palace, and he owns a small piece of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, which he will have to sell when he takes over the Commanders.


Snyder purchased the Commanders, then called the Washington Redskins, in 1999 for $800 million. At the time, it was the most valuable sports team in the world, but it has slipped over the years because of struggles on and off the field. Sportico currently values the team at $4.8 billion, which ranks eighth in the league.

The Commanders have made the playoffs just five times since the 1999 season, and won just one postseason game (2005). In the NFC, only the Detroit Lions have gone longer since their last playoff victory. The Commanders averaged 58,106 fans at home last season, the lowest total in the NFL.

That attendance slide—the team averaged 83,172 fans in 2010, second most in the league—shows the extent to which the Commanders’ fans turned on Snyder amid the team’s many controversies. They include long-running reports of rampant workplace harassment, a Congressional investigation into financial impropriety, and his staunch opposition to changing what many considered a racist team name (he finally relented in 2020).

One of the first priorities for the new ownership group will be a new stadium. FedEx Field, the team’s current home in Maryland, opened in 1997 and does not have the revenue-generating trappings of newer NFL venues. That will be an expensive endeavor, especially if public funds aren’t made available—Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s privately financed new stadium in Los Angeles cost more than $5 billion—but it will also improve the economics for the Commanders moving forward.

(This story has been updated with details of the Harris bidding group in the second paragraph and a statement from Harris in the fourth paragraph.)


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