- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2023

Just like that, a white knight has ridden into the darkness of the world of the Washington Commanders.

Mitchell Rales, a local billionaire who publicly espouses — in some aspects of his life, at least — societal values of decency and humanity, has emerged as an investor in Josh Harris’ group bidding to purchase the team.

ESPN reported that Rales, whose net worth is an estimated $5.6 billion, has joined forces with Harris, the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils owner — a move that appears to make Harris’ bid to buy the Commanders the leader in the clubhouse, in the view from the grandstands.

The only other known reported bidders are Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, and Amazon boss and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, though Bezos is reportedly being frozen out of the bidding by the aggrieved current owner, Skipper Dan the Sailing Man. The skipper is angry about the Post’s coverage of the football team’s toxic work atmosphere.

I have always believed that if Bezos really wants to buy the Commanders, the NFL will step in and force the sale, even if it meant forcing Skipper Dan out to make it happen.

Bezos is one of the league’s biggest business partners — his Amazon Prime carries the league’s Thursday night games. Bezos is committed to paying the NFL $1 billion a year for 11 years. Does anyone really think they are going to let Skipper Dan tell Bezos his money is no good — especially when Bezos would likely have the highest bid, raising the value of all the other teams in the process?

But Bezos may be more interested in the Seattle Seahawks, the team run by late owner Paul Allen’s family trust that is likely to hit the market soon.

Despite his presence in the D.C. area and the establishment of Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington, Bezos founded his empire in Seattle in 1994.

The Seahawks would be a far easier path for Bezos into the NFL and more attractive, with a strong, healthy fan base and a good home in Lumen Field — neither of which the Commanders have.

The presence of Rales in Harris’s bid makes life easier for everyone in the process. It likely gives the group the money needed to satisfy both Skipper Dan’s $6 billion sales price and the desire on the part of the other NFL owners to see the franchise fetch top dollar. A rising tide raises all yachts.

There are still many potential complications to this deal, including Skipper Dan’s reported insistence that his fellow NFL owners indemnify the Commanders owner from future legal liability, according to a Post story. This could still get ugly. It’s the way Skipper Dan conducts business.

How does Rales, 67, conduct business? We don’t know much about him. He grew up in Bethesda and went to Walt Whitman High School. He has been a private person. He co-founded the Danaher Corporation, which designs, manufactures, and markets professional, medical, industrial and commercial products and services. He and his brother Steven, a movie producer, started sports talk radio in Washington in 1992.

But he and his wife, Emily Wei Rales, founded a remarkable place in Potomac that should give hope to every Washington Commanders fan — Glenstone, a museum with paintings, sculptures and other art. The museum is free and open to the public.

Here, according to its website, are the core values that Rales embraces for Glenstone:

“Art is essential to life.”

“Meaningful encounters begin with direct engagement.”

“We embrace diverse perspectives and inclusive practices.”

“Honesty and intellectual integrity guide us.”

“We think in the long term.”

“Excellence, continuous improvement, and teamwork drive us.”

We know what values Skipper Dan has embraced. They are available for perusal in court documents, congressional testimony and evidence compiled by law enforcement agencies across three jurisdictions.

We don’t know what role Rales would have in a Josh Harris ownership. There are few more meaningless titles in sports than “minority owner.” It generally means a good seat at the stadium and maybe a close parking space.

But Commanders fans should be assured that Rales would not likely be doing business with Harris if he didn’t feel confident they share the same values. There’s a monument to those values named Glenstone.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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