The NFL gives the Washington Commanders a $6 billion deal

Josh Harris will pay a record $6.05 billion to buy the Washington club from Snyder, who was accused of sexual harassment, lost for decades, and was pressured by the public to change the team’s name and logo.

Josh Harris and the new owners of the Commanders will work on fixing the team’s bad reputation and looking into ways to repair or replace FedEx Field, where the team has played since 1997.Credit…Nick Wass/Agence France-Presse

The other 31 N.F.L. teams agreed that the scandal-plagued owner of the Washington Commanders, Daniel Snyder, should sell the team to a group run by private equity billionaire Josh Harris. The group agreed to pay Snyder a record $6.05 billion for the team.

The previous record price paid for an American sports team was $4.65 billion, born last year for the Denver Broncos by a group led by Rob Walton, an heir to Walmart.

The official end of the Commander’s deal could happen as soon as Friday. Snyder paid $800 million for the team in 1999.

Washington Commanders

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement about the vote, “Josh will be a great addition to the NFL.

“He is  aware of his passion for athletic success, but he also know that he is dedicated to building a team that everyone can be proud of and doing good actions in the community.”

Harris and his crew will be able to seize control of one of the most significant teams in the league after the voting at an ad hoc, one-day meeting in Minneapolis.

Under Snyder, the team had lost many games and had some problems off the field. Harris has a history of making his other professional teams, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the New Jersey Devils, do better in the results.

Harris and his group will try to fix the team’s bad reputation and look into ways to repair or replace FedEx Field, where the team has played since 1997.

The training center is on land that the club owns in Maryland and Virginia. But many N.F.L. team owners would rather see the Commanders build a new field in the District of Columbia, where they have played for most of their history.

“This franchise is a big part of who I am and what I’ve become as a person,” Harris said, adding that he grew up in nearby Chevy Chase, Md., cheering for the team.

Harris and his group of investors, including the businessman and donor Mitchell Rales and the former N.B.A. star Magic Johnson, will have much to do.

During Snyder’s 24 years as coach, the team only made the playoffs six times and won just two games.

The once-dominant team, which won three Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s, saw its attendance drop to a league-low as losses piled up, the stadium fell into disrepair, and the owner’s stubbornness turned off fans and sponsors.

Snyder got into trouble with the league and his fellow owners almost immediately after he bought the Washington franchise in 1999.

He broke the salary cap and insisted that the team keep the same name and logo it had when it moved to Washington, even though many Native American groups thought it was racist.

In 2020, the team’s name was changed to the Commanders.

In 2020, the N.F.L. also started looking into claims that there was much sexual abuse in the team offices. After looking into the claims, Goodell fined the team $10 million.

Still, under pressure from Snyder, he did not share the league’s findings.

Members of Congress were upset by the ruling, so they started their investigation, which turned up more claims of harassment and financial fraud.

Washington Commanders

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform said in a 79-page report that Snyder, with the help of the N.F.L. and Goodell, hid proof that he and other team executives sexually harassed women who worked there for 20 years.

The committee said Snyder went to great lengths to stop probes into him and his team. The report said he tried to pay former employees “hush money” so they wouldn’t discuss their experiences.

He also wouldn’t let a woman out of her nondisclosure agreement after she spent $1.6 million to settle a sexual misconduct claim against Snyder and used private investigators and leaked emails to scare former employees into turning down interview requests.

The league hired former federal lawyer Mary Jo White to look into the claims that the committee found. White’s story came out after the company gave its OK to the sale.

During her 17-month investigation of the team, White found that Snyder sexually harassed a woman who had been a cheerleader and worked in marketing for the team.

She also found evidence that the team intentionally kept about $11 million in revenue that was supposed to be split between all 32 teams in the league.

The review couldn’t prove or disprove that Snyder led or took part in this “revenue shielding.” Still, it did find that “at the very least, he was aware of certain efforts to minimize revenue sharing.”

Snyder received a record $60 million fine from the league.

Snyder asked the N.F.L. to protect him from being sued in current and possible future legal battles, but he did not get this help.

Snyder and a small group of family and friends, including Fred Smith, the chairman of FedEx, had a majority stake in the club for many years.

Three limited partners, including Fred Smith, owned 40% of the club. In 2020, Snyder’s partners said he handled the team’s money poorly.

Snyder said they were trying to sell the team by spreading harmful information about him and the ominous atmosphere at the office.

1999 Daniel Snyder spent $800 million to buy the Washington Commanders.Credit…Jonathan Newton.

The Washington Post, through Getty Images, To get rid of the messy argument, the owners of the other N.F.L. teams permitted Snyder to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars more to buy out his partners for $875 million.

Since the team was failing and Snyder was in trouble, the owners started to think of ways to get rid of him.

In October, Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, was the first to say openly that Snyder should leave the league. Snyder noted two weeks later that he had hired bankers to look into selling the club.

Snyder wanted to find a buyer ready to pay $7 billion, but he chose Harris, who got more than a dozen other investors to join the bid.

The league’s finance committee, which looks over team applications, wanted to change how much debt Harris took to pay for the buy. But Harris put up more of his money to ensure that some of that loan would be paid.

Washington Commanders

On Monday, the finance committee voted informally to accept the plan to buy the company. This means that the entire ownership can vote on the deal on Thursday.

Snyder no longer owns the team, but the Eastern District of Virginia still looks into claims that the Commanders did wrong with their money.

Harris will also have to deal with Snyder’s tense relationships with local politicians. Many were upset with him because he didn’t want to change the team’s name.

For a long time, politicians in D.C. and on Capitol Hill wouldn’t even consider letting Snyder build on the site of R.F.K. Stadium.

Now that Snyder is gone, this might change. Goodell talked to Mayor Muriel Bowser of the District of Columbia in December. Mayor Bowser needs help from the federal government because the National Park Service runs the 190-acre site.

Ken Belson writes about the N.F.L. After working in Metro and Business; he moved to the Sports area in 2009. From 2001 to 2004, he worked in the Tokyo office and wrote about Japan. 

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