- The Washington Times
Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder, mired in investigations and stymied in his quest for a new stadium, is exploring a sale of hisNFL team.

Mr. Snyder and his wife, Tanya, have hired an investment bank to evaluate “potential transactions” and are “exploring all options” including a sale, according to statements issued Wednesday by the team and a spokesperson.

The Snyders retained Bank of America Securities to lead the inquiry. The investment bank has helped oversee sales of other sports franchises, notably when Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014.

Last month, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said there is “merit” to removing Mr. Snyder from the NFL after the league’s investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct on the part of Mr. Snyder and the team.

Mr. Irsay was the first owner to publicly call for Mr. Snyder’s removal, and the criticism drew a sharp rebuke from the Commanders. A team spokesperson said in an Oct. 18 statement that there was “no reason for the Snyders to consider selling the franchise. And they won’t.”

The Oct. 18 comment marked the second time in a matter of days that the representative insisted Mr. Snyder wouldn’t be selling. The spokesperson also suggested that a damaging ESPN report, which said Mr. Snyder claimed to have “dirt” on other NFL owners, was part of an effort to “coerce the sale of the team, which will continue to be unsuccessful.”

“The Snyders remain committed to the team, all of its employees and its countless fans to putting the best product on the field and continuing the work to set the gold standard for workplaces in the NFL,” the team said in a statement Wednesday.

Hours after the news broke that Mr. Snyder would consider selling the team, ESPN reported that the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia has opened a criminal investigation into accusations of financial improprieties within the franchise.

The prospect of a change in ownership sparked joy among many of the team’s long-suffering fans, and Wednesday’s announcement marked the first time the Snyders have publicly acknowledged the possibility of a sale. If they do sell, the reward could be quite profitable for Mr. Snyder, who bought the team for $800 million in 1999.

In August, Forbes estimated the team is worth $5.6 billion and ranked it as the sixth most valuable franchise in the NFL. The valuation was boosted in part by the sale this year of the Denver Broncos, which fetched a better-than-expected $4.65 billion from Walmart heir Rob Walton.

“Any potential transaction would have to be presented to the NFL Finance Committee for review and require an affirmative vote by three-quarters of the full membership (24 of 32 teams),” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement.

Mr. McCarthy said in an email that the league’s investigation into Mr. Snyder is continuing. The league hired former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White to investigate this year after a former Washington employee told members of Congress that Mr. Snyder made an unwanted advance by touching her thigh underneath a table at a work dinner and trying to coax her into his limo.

It was the league’s second investigation into the team. The NFL fined Washington $10 million in July 2021 after more than 40 women said they experienced or witnessed sexual harassment while working for the team.

Congress and attorneys general in Virginia and the District also are investigating Mr. Snyder.

Lisa Delpy Neirotti, an associate professor of sport management at George Washington University, said the Commanders could have an owner as soon as next season if Mr. Snyder decides to sell. She said the Broncos’ sale could help the process because the league already has preapproved other bidders.

Forbes reported Wednesday that four groups had reached out to Mr. Snyder to express interest in buying the team.

“It’s a win-win for everyone here,” Ms. Delpy Neirotti said. “Dan Snyder can sell the team at the peak of the market and go out graciously, without negative connotations coming up. And the Commanders get a new ownership and can reconnect with its fan base.”

The NFL’s financial committee typically meets in the weeks leading up to the NFL’s quarterly meetings. The next session is Dec. 14 in Dallas, but if a matter needs the attention of the committee — such as the sale of the Commanders — the panel could meet sooner. A special meeting was called in August for the sale of the Broncos.

Mr. Snyder’s family owns 100% of the Commanders. In March 2021, he bought out his three minority partners’ 40% stake for $875 million after a legal dispute. The NFL helped facilitate the buyout by giving Mr. Snyder a $450 million loan.

Though Mr. Snyder could use Bank of America Securities to find new minority partners instead of selling, Wednesday’s news caused many of Washington’s disillusioned fans to celebrate at the thought of the Commanders under new ownership. Fans filled the phone lines of local radio stations and took to social media to express their excitement.

“Who wants to be a Minority owner of the Washington Commanders?” former Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III tweeted. “I’m down to pay for a stake in the team and bring 10 fans along for the ride.”

Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, lawyers who represent 40 former Washington employees who accused the team of misconduct, said a Snyder sale “could obviously be a big step towards healing and closure for the many brave women and men who came forward,” but they noted that they need to see how the situation unfolds.

At the team’s headquarters in Ashburn, Virginia, a helicopter from a local news station circled the facility as players began to practice. Coach Ron Rivera declined to comment on the possibility that the team would be sold. He told reporters that he was focused on preparing the Commanders for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. Players echoed his statement.

“I can’t tell you what’s going on or why they’re doing it,” he said. “Mostly because any conversation I have with them, dealing with the organization is private between the two of us.”

If Mr. Snyder decides to sell the franchise, it wouldn’t be the first time the owner has backtracked on a major issue regarding his team. In 2013, he vowed that he would never — “NEVER, you can use caps,” he said — change the team’s name from Redskins. But in July 2020, amid renewed scrutiny, the team officially retired the moniker.

Fans have been adamant that Mr. Snyder sell the franchise. Over the years, they have occasionally broken out in chants of “sell the team” at FedEx Field. The chant was even heard at Washington’s last home game against the Packers, shortly after Mrs. Snyder was booed when she was shown in a video on the jumbotron promoting breast cancer awareness.

They may finally get their wish.

He said he’d never change the name of the team, just like he said he’d never sell,” Ms. Delpy Neirotti said. “And look, he changed the name of the team. Maybe it’s time now that he sell.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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