Everybody relax. Skipper Dan the Sailing Man is going to sell the Washington Commanders. He won’t have a choice.
Go back to ground zero, when the impossible dream that Skipper Dan would one day sell the franchise began to materialize as a real possibility — the day in October that Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay emerged from an NFL owners meeting and said this about Skipper Dan: “I believe there is merit to removing him as owner.”
Irsay doubled down on that in an interview two weeks later with the Washington Post, speaking to the outcome of the ongoing NFL investigation into sexual misconduct charges against Skipper Dan.
“I’m not sure how that report’s going to come out,” he said. “But what already has come out is extremely disturbing, and I disagree with the process. And I most likely disagree that we haven’t discussed something more severe such as him being removed as owner. As I said, it’s not something that I’m saying we should do. I’m saying it’s something that has to be given serious consideration.”
Irsay said this after a December owners meeting: “I’m not ready to vote him out. I need to hear more of my partners talk. It’s been something where you want to get more information about everything is the key.’’
You can believe that is backing down if you want. But have you ever heard an NFL owner talk about a fellow owner — maybe other than Al Davis, who was suing the league decades ago — in your lifetime?
Granted, I know this is Irsay, who was suspended for six games and fined $500,000 in 2014 after pleading guilty to DWI and being sentenced to one year of probation.
But in the billionaire boys’ club of the NFL, Irsay is not without standing. He’s won a Super Bowl. He hosted a Super Bowl. And, most importantly to his fellow owners, he got a new stadium built — Lucas Oil Stadium.
In other words, Irsay has accomplished everything that Skipper Dan has not.
Irsay would not have come out of that meeting to run over Skipper Dan with a steamroller and then do it again two weeks later if he didn’t feel he was speaking for the sentiment in the room.
Since then, Skipper Dan’s team was fined $250,000 by the Maryland attorney general for withholding money from customers. His team was sued in multiple court actions by the District attorney general. The team is still under investigation for financial irregularities by the Virginia attorney general.
A criminal investigation into the franchise continues in the U.S Attorney’s Office of Eastern Virginia, with at least one subpoena issued in the probe, according to Front Office Sports.
Then there is the continuing league investigation by hired gun Mary Jo White into the allegations by former team employee Tiffani Johnston against Skipper Dan that were revealed in the Congressional hearings about the team’s abusive business practices.
In the months since Irsay’s comments, nothing has happened to make the Skipper look better. There is nothing to support the notion that now there is no appetite to get rid of the Commanders owner.
The NFL is forcing this decision and will force this sale. There is no going back.
The league will also decide who Skipper Dan sells to — and there is no reason to believe that they won’t welcome Amazon boss and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos with open arms.
These reports that Skipper Dan is keeping Bezos out of the sales process are ridiculous posturing. You really think the owners, who are business partners with Bezos in his Amazon Prime network and his Amazon Web Services (they do the NFL scheduling), are now going to tell their partner he’s frozen out of owning this franchise?
For Bezos, the decision will be does he want to wait until the Paul Allen Trust puts the Seattle Seahawks up for sale — perhaps a more attractive option, with a strong fan base in place and a functional stadium — or take the option in front of him now with the Commanders?
This is all about valuation and the ego that comes with it — having the newest, highest sale valuation. Skipper Dan sees Milwaukee Bucks owner Mark Lasry sell his stake in the Milwaukee Bucks for a valuation of $3.5 billion. He and his partner Wes Edens bought the team in 2014 for $550 million. He saw Robert Sarver sell the Phoenix Suns (and the WNBA Mercury) for $4 billion in December. Sarver paid $401 million for it in 2004.
Skipper Dan paid $800 million for this franchise in 1999. I’m guessing somewhere over a $6 billion valuation is the magic number for everybody — even the skipper — to go home happy.
⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.
• Thom Loverro can be reached at email@example.com.
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