A group led by Josh Harris, the co-owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils, reached an agreement to buy the Washington Commanders from owners Dan and Tanya Snyder, the sides announced Friday.
The group agreed to pay a record $6.05 billion for the team, sources told ESPN. The previous record sale for a sports franchise had been set in August, when a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton bought the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion.
The deal reached by Harris’ group and the Snyders on Friday is subject to NFL approval. A source said league owners will receive an update on the sale agreement at the May 22-23 league meetings in Minneapolis, with any potential vote occurring in the coming months. Approval by at least three-quarters of the league’s owners and other customary closing conditions will be needed for the transaction to go through.
The Snyders had reached a preliminary nonexclusive agreement to sell the franchise to Harris on April 14. At the time, the deal was fully financed but had not yet been signed.
“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,” the Snyders 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.”
Harris, who grew up in 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, David Blitzer, who owns part of Crystal Palace FC of the English Premier League with Harris and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson are also part of Harris’ group. There are also at least 12 limited partners as part of the group.
“On behalf of our 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 Commanders and how committed we are to delivering a championship-caliber franchise for this city and its fanbase,” Harris said in the 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 deal also includes FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, as well as the team’s practice facility in Ashburn, Virginia. The Commanders have been seeking a new stadium somewhere in the D.C. area. According to multiple people involved, Dan Snyder’s presence — and the investigations into him and the franchise — had stalled the process since last year.
Steve Apostolopoulos, a Canadian billionaire, and Tilman Fertitta, owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, were among other groups that had bid on the Commanders. Another anonymous group bid on the team after touring the facilities, sources told ESPN.
Jeff Bezos, who had interest, did not make a bid for the team.
In a statement, Apostolopoulos commended on the process, saying: “I could not have been more impressed with the opportunity and people involved and know the Commanders will continue to be a foundational franchise in the NFL.”
Harris’ purchase, meanwhile, drew praise from Joe Gibbs, the Hall of Fame former coach of Washington.
“I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Josh Harris and the leadership team during this process and fully support his efforts to lead the new ownership group of the Commanders,” he said. “The NFL has grown a great deal since my time as a coach in this League, but what hasn’t changed is my belief that with great leadership from the top, the drive to win on the field and a commitment to culture — championship teams are created. Josh and his team share these values and I am committed to doing what I can to re-connect this great franchise to the community, fanbase, and alumni.”
Washington’s franchise, which hasn’t won a playoff game in 18 years, once created plenty of value. From 1971 to 1992, the team played in five Super Bowls and won three. The franchise finished with double-digit regular-season wins 13 times and posted only two losing records. In 1988, coming off a second Super Bowl victory, the team said the waitlist for tickets at RFK Stadium, its home until 1996, was close to 39,000.
But the past three years have been one of the more chaotic periods in franchise history because of a series of off-field issues. The franchise announced in July 2020 that it was retiring its former nickname. Later that month, The Washington Post published a report revealing episodes of alleged sexual harassment by former team employees and highlighting a workplace culture accused of being toxic. That led to an NFL investigation of the situation, multiple stories uncovering more strife and accusations and, finally, a $10 million fine for the franchise levied by the league.
In October 2021, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, led by former chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), started investigating the Commanders. That investigation led to an allegation of sexual misconduct by Snyder in addition to financial improprieties by him. It also led to the attorneys general in Virginia and the District of Columbia to start their own investigations. The U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia later opened a criminal investigation into allegations of financial improprieties by the Commanders.
Snyder installed his wife, Tanya, as co-CEO in 2020, and she has been the public face of the franchise since that time. She represented the team at league functions for more than a year. The last time Dan Snyder spoke publicly was to introduce the team’s new name Feb. 2, 2022.
For a long time, NFL owners did not appear ready to vote out one of their own for the first time in league history. But at the league meetings held in October, Colts owner Jim Irsay said of Snyder: “There’s merit to remove him as owner.” According to multiple league sources, there was growing fatigue from the Commanders’ situation.
The Snyders released a statement at that time insisting they’d never sell. They abruptly changed their stance in November by announcing the team was up for sale.
Dan Snyder had led a group that purchased the team in 1999 for $800 million. He arrived in the NFL as a young, hard-charging businessman who famously grew up a diehard fan of the franchise.
Washington won the NFC East title that season with a 10-6 record, but the franchise could never sustain success under Snyder. Early in his tenure he became known for changing coaches and signing big-name free agents. In his first five years as owner, he fired Norv Turner in 2000 and Marty Schottenheimer a year later and saw Steve Spurrier resign after two seasons.
Snyder’s first free agent class included high-profile veterans such as future Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith. Washington later gave free agent defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth a then-record $41 million in guaranteed money.
But the aggressive approach did not result in success, even though Snyder also hired coaches such as Gibbs, who previously led the team to three Super Bowl championships, and Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls in Denver.
Washington never won more than 10 games in a season and reached that figure only three times during Snyder’s 24 years. The team hasn’t won more than nine games since 2012. Washington went 2-6 in the playoffs during Snyder’s tenure; it hasn’t won a postseason game since 2005, under Gibbs.
The Commanders finished 8-8-1 last season under coach Ron Rivera, who is entering his fourth year in charge.