Josh Harris, the owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils, has agreed to acquire the Washington Commanders for a record $6 billion from Dan Snyder, the team’s longtime owner who has been beset by problems that have drawn investigations from the National Football League, Congress, and other government organizations.
With the end of Snyder’s tenure, the NFL attempted to remove itself from a terrible chapter in league history and restore the popular franchise’s future, which had been tainted by charges of a hostile workplace and an inability to acquire a new stadium under Snyder.
Multiple persons with knowledge of the arrangement who were not permitted to talk publicly about the details confirmed the sale, which was initially reported by Sportico.
The deal comes as the NFL conducts its second investigation into numerous sexual harassment charges leveled against club leaders, including Snyder, as well as alleged financial irregularities.
These charges, along with Snyder’s failure to construct a new stadium and public anger, prompted several of the league’s other owners to contemplate voting to force him to sell the club, which he purchased in 1999 for $800 million.
Once the Harris group files its offer, it must be authorized by the league’s finance committee and at least three-quarters of the league’s 31 other club owners, which could happen within weeks. Mitchell Rales, a millionaire from the Washington, D.C., region, is among Harris’ limited partners, as is Magic Johnson.
The owners will next meet in person on May 22 and 23 in Minneapolis. Last June, the Walton family, creators of Walmart, paid $4.65 billion to purchase the Denver Broncos, almost double the previous record price for an N.F.L. franchise.
The Commanders, the NFL, and Josh Harris all refused to comment on the accord.
Snyder and Tanya, the team’s co-owner, officially started looking for a buyer in November 2022, when they contacted Bank of America to solicit bids for all or a part of the Commanders.
They started taking proposals only weeks after Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said that Snyder “needs to be removed,” confirming what owners had been saying quietly for months.
Snyder has faced a rising number of controversies and legal issues in recent years. In July 2020, Snyder succumbed to years of criticism, notably from one of the team’s largest sponsors, FedEx, and decided to replace the team’s long-standing name, which many saw as a slur towards Native Americans.
Several weeks later, hundreds of female workers accused Snyder and senior executives of sexual harassment. Snyder recruited a top Washington lawyer to investigate the claims, which were published in The Washington Post, but the probe was immediately taken over by the league.
Snyder sued his limited partners, alleging that they sought to defame his character in order to undermine his ownership of the team, resulting in a very heated court fight that included charges that Snyder mishandled the club financially.
The disagreement was resolved by a league-appointed mediator in the spring of 2021 when the owners authorized Snyder to incur $450 million in extra debt in order to buy out the three limited partners who owned 40% of the team.
After a league-led investigation found that a rampant culture of sexual harassment perpetuated by managers and executives had persisted at the team for more than a decade and that Snyder had done nothing to stop it, the league fined the club a record $10 million and ordered Snyder to stay away from the team in July 2021.
Despite the fact that some executives were dismissed and others resigned, Snyder asked the league to keep the precise findings quiet, and Commissioner Roger Goodell only provided a brief synopsis.
This prompted a congressional committee to initiate its own probe into the team’s front office’s handling of women. Witnesses testified about additional allegations leveled against Snyder, who was deposed for almost 11 hours.
Following the additional charges, the league launched a second investigation headed by former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White. The National Football League has yet to share her findings.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia started a criminal investigation into accusations that the team committed financial fraud in November 2022. The attorneys general of Virginia and the District of Columbia also sued Snyder and his crew. The latter action was resolved, with the club agreeing to pay a $425,000 fine and refund around $200,000 in season-ticket reservations.
In the midst of legal investigations and waning public support, Snyder faced tremendous obstacles in constructing a new stadium in the area to replace the outdated FedEx Field, which opened in 1997 and has been plagued by pipe leaks and other structural flaws.
Under Snyder, the Commanders ended with winning records in just six of 24 seasons and won only two postseason games. The loss, along with the rickety stadium, turned off people. Despite often playing before sold-out audiences in the 1980s and 1990s, the club has recently been at the bottom of the N.F.L. in home attendance.
Nonetheless, Forbes placed the Commanders as the ninth most valuable club in sports in 2022, ahead of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and Premier League’s Manchester United, owing in large part to the N.F.L.’s revenue sharing model and the windfall secured by football’s television rights agreements.