Josh Harris-led group nears deal to buy Washington Commanders: report
WASHINGTON - After years of controversy swirling around the Washington Commanders and Dan Snyder, a new owner could soon be taking over D.C.'s football franchise.
According to a source familiar, Josh Harris, the Philadelphia 76ers co-owner, has closed a deal to acquire the Commanders for $6.05 billion. Harris’ group also includes D.C.-area billionaire Mitchell Rales and former NBA star Magic Johnson.
The source states that the deal has not been finalized, or submitted to the league yet for approval. At least 24 NFL owners must approve the deal for it to be finalized.
A representative for the Commanders declined to comment on the report.
CAMDEN, NJ - SEPTEMBER 13: Owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, Joshua Harris, speaks at the podium prior to the team unveiling a sculpture to honor Charles Barkley at their practice facility on September 13, 2019 in Camden, New Jersey. (Photo by Mitchel
If approved, the deal between Snyder and the Harris group would end one of the more tumultuous and controversial ownership tenures in modern U.S. sports.
According to a ProFootballTalk report, owners Dan and Tanya Snyder had already moved out of the Commanders' facility in the months leading up to the sale.
The sale of Washington's football franchise comes years of controversy surrounding Snyder and his ownership of the team, including allegations of sexual and workplace misconduct.
Back in August 2020, the organization announced that they would be looking deeper into allegations of workplace problems within Washington Football.
Team owner Daniel Snyder initially hired Beth Wilkinson of District of Columbia law firm Wilkinson Walsh LLP to review the allegations of misconduct and the workplace culture. Just before the 2020 season began, the league assumed oversight of her work.
ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 2: Washington Commanders owners Tanya Snyder, left, and Dan Snyder on the field before the Dallas Cowboys defeat of the Washington Commanders 25-10 at AT&T Stadium on October 2, 2022 in Arlington, TX. (Photo by John Mc
In 2021, Snyder bought out minority owners Fred Smith, Dwight Schar and Bob Rothman, after they sued him the previous November seeking an injunction to allow them to sell their shares of the team. That transaction was approved by league owners.
Then in October of that year, the House Oversight Committee sent a letter requesting all documents related to an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, abuse, and other workplace misconduct from top executives at the team. In July 2021, the team was fined $10 million after the investigation revealed serious misconduct and a "hostile" workplace culture.
The investigation included testimony from Snyder and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. A final report released in December by Democrats overseeing the investigation said the team had a pattern of "ignoring and downplaying sexual misconduct" and what female former employees described as hundreds of instances of sexual harassment by men at the top levels of the organization.
In February 2022, the Committee learned more about the allegations against the team from former employees, after holding a roundtable where employees widespread sexual harassment, abuse, and other workplace misconduct by top executives, including team owner Daniel Snyder, and explained that the League failed to address these issues.
Following the roundtable, the NFL hired former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White to investigate an allegation that Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder sexually harassed a team employee more than a decade ago. According to the Associated Press, Mary Jo White's review of the allegations is currently ongoing.
The Committee then told the FTC in April that it had found evidence of deceptive business practices over the span of more than a decade, including withholding ticket revenue from visiting teams and refundable deposits from fans.
Snyder has denied the sexual assault allegations and the team has denied any financial wrongdoing.
In October 2022, ESPN reported, citing anonymous sources, Snyder has hired private investigators and told people he has enough information to expose fellow owners and Goodell.
The Commanders denied the contents of the report, calling it "categorically untrue" and "clearly part of a well-funded, two-year campaign to coerce the sale of the team, which will continue to be unsuccessful."
Snyder addressed the report in a letter to owners.
"That is patently false and intended to erode the trust and goodwill between owners that I take quite seriously," he wrote.
Aside from the federal investigation, Snyder and the franchise also had two civil suits filed in late 2022 against them by The Attorney General for the District of Columbia. One suit claimed the team schemed to cheat fans out of ticket money and the other named Snyder, Goodell and the league, saying they colluded to deceive fans about the federal investigation into the team’s workplace culture. The Commanders settled with the state of Maryland, agreeing to return security deposits to former season ticket holders and pay a $250,000 penalty.
The franchise also rebranded as the Commanders in 2022, after dropping its old name in July 2020 following decades of complaints that it was racist toward Native Americans.
In February 2023, a story published by The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, reported that Snyder and his attorneys have demanded that NFL owners and the league indemnify him against future legal liability and costs if he sells the team and threatened to sue if not. The Post said Snyder also wants the findings of the league investigation into him kept private and that his demands angered owners and renewed discussion about possibly taking a vote to remove him.
The team called the post story "simply untrue." According to the Associated Press, An NFL spokesperson declined to comment on the Post report.
In the aftermath of The Washington Post story about Snyder seeking indemnification, ESPN reported that a federal grand jury has issued subpoenas related to team finances after prosecutors launched an inquiry in 2022 into alleged financial improprieties by Snyder and the Commanders, including a $55 million loan he took out without the knowledge and approval of his then-minority owners, who were bought out in 2021. ESPN said the criminal inquiry is being led by a team of FBI and IRS agents.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement sent to The Associated Press that Snyder and his previous minority owners "had a series of disputes" before going through mediation with an arbitrator and Commissioner Roger Goodell and coming away with an agreement. McCarthy added, "The agreement included full releases of all claims that were or could have been asserted by any party in the arbitration proceeding."
Commanders counsel John Brownlee said in a statement that the team has been fully cooperating with the Eastern District of Virginia since it received a request for records last year.
"The requested records only relate to customer security deposits and the team’s ticket sales and revenue," Brownlee said. "The team will continue to cooperate with this investigation."
A team spokesperson added that the Commanders are "completely transparent in sharing all financials with the league for their review and oversight."
It is unclear what will happen to the investigations once the team's sale is complete.
Snyder bought Washington's football team in May 1999 for $800 million becoming the youngest-ever person to buy an NFL franchise.
Here is a timeline documenting many of the key challenges that the Snyders' and Commanders have faced over the past two decades.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.