The announcement comes after more than two years of turmoil for the team, which began with the retirement of its long-controversial moniker, which included remarks on the workplaces of Daniel Snyder and other former team executives Multiple investigations into allegations of harassment and financial misconduct, extending to a recent home game where fans booed a video of Tanya Snyder and chanted “Sell the team!”
Daniel Snyder has denied any allegations made directly against him, and the team has repeatedly pledged to work on a “cultural transformation.” But the possibility of any change in ownership status had not been publicly hinted at until Wednesday.
“Dan and Tanya Snyder and the Washington Commander announced today that they have hired Bank of America Securities to consider a potential transaction,” the Commander said in a statement. “The Snyder family remains committed to providing the best product for the team, all employees and countless fans, and continues to work hard to set the gold standard for the NFL workplace.”
While selling the team is only one possibility, it may be the most viable option.
As the recent sale of the Denver Broncos has shown, interest from wealthy individuals and corporations in owning NFL franchises remains very high given the rapidly rising franchise value, but there are few minority buyers for the same reason. Based on a 20 percent discount, a 40 percent stake in Commander could cost as much as $1.8 billion because it doesn’t include decision-making power. Snyder’s history of conflicts and litigation with business partners and executives could be another consideration for potential investors.
Additionally, league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement Wednesday that any potential trade would need to be approved by three-quarters of other team owners. Such a vote will come at a time when Snyder faces intense peer scrutiny amid investigations by the NFL, the House Oversight and Reform Committee and attorneys general in Washington, D.C. and Virginia.
In 1999, Daniel Snyder led a group of investors that bought the team and its stadium from the Jack Kent Cook estate for $800 million. Forbes estimated in August that the commanders were worth $5.6 billion. In March 2021, Snyder acquired his three limited partners — Dwight Schall, Fred Smith and Robert Rothman — who together own about 40% of the franchise for $875 million . The deal requires his 31 fellow owners to grant him waivers to take on an additional $450 million in debt, which he must pay back by 2028 if he remains the owner.
The NFL declined to comment further on a potential trade Wednesday. In March, NFL owners approved a resolution supporting franchise diversity.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Ilsey has said in recent weeks that he and other NFL team owners should seriously consider voting to remove Snyder from the commander’s ownership.
“I think we’re going to have more and more discussions about this,” Ilsay told reporters at an owners’ meeting in New York last month. “It’s a difficult situation. I think it’s good to have him removed as owner [Commanders]. I think that’s something we have to review. We have to look at all the evidence, and we have to move forward thoroughly. But I think it’s something that has to be seriously considered. “
Irsay expanded on his comments in a phone interview on Friday: “I’m not sure how the report is going to come out. But what has come out is very disturbing and I disagree with the process. I probably disagree that we didn’t discuss anything more serious. things like his being disowned. As I said, it’s not something I say we should do. I say it’s something that has to be taken seriously.”
That would require a vote of at least three-quarters of the owners to remove Snyder from ownership. Multiple owners told The Washington Post in September that they thought they might seriously consider trying to push Snyder out of league ownership, either by persuading him to sell his franchise or by voting to remove him.
“He needs to sell,” one of the owners said at the time. “Some of us need to go to him and tell him he needs to sell.”
It was unclear on Wednesday whether any owners had urged Snyder to sell.
“I think there will be a movement,” the same owner said in September. “We need to get 24 votes.”
The NFL and owners “need this to happen like the NBA just had,” the owner said at the time, referring to Robert Sarver, owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. The NBA suspended Sarver for a year and fined him $10 million after an investigation found he used racial nicknames and treated female employees to different standards than his male counterparts, among other violations of the league’s policies. Sarver announced in September that he had started looking for buyers for the two franchises.
The NFL’s current investigation is being conducted by attorney Mary Jo White.
“Mary Jo White is continuing her review,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “We don’t have an update on the timetable.”
The league launched its investigation into White after Snyder harassed her at a team dinner, putting his hand on her lap and pressing her into his limo, it said at a congressional roundtable in February. Snyder has denied the allegations, calling them “outright lies.”
In June, The Washington Post reported details of an employee’s claim that Snyder sexually assaulted her on a private jet in April 2009. Later that year, the team agreed to a nondisclosure settlement to pay the fired employees $1.6 million. In a 2020 court filing, Snyder called the woman’s claims “baseless.”
In April, the House committee detailed allegations of financial misconduct by Snyder and his team in a letter to the FTC. The district’s Democratic Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Virginia’s Republican Attorney General Jason S. Miyares announced they would investigate. The team denies any financial wrongdoing.
A person familiar with the investigation said last month that Racine’s office was close to completing its investigation and planned to take further action on the case.
“Today’s news that Dan and Tanya Snyder are exploring a sale of the Washington Commanders is a great development for the team, its former and current employees, and its many fans,” said a representative of more than 40 former Team employees’ attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz said in a statement Wednesday. “We’re going to have to see how this unfolds, but it could obviously be a big step toward healing and ending for the many brave men and women who have come forward.”
The NFL did not say when White’s investigation was completed. The league said White’s report will be released publicly, unlike previous findings of an investigation into the team’s workplace by attorney Beth Wilkinson.
The House committee is expected to release its findings in the coming weeks. Daniel Snyder participated in sworn testimony to the committee remotely in July for more than 10 hours. In September, former team president Bruce Allen testified remotely for about 10 hours under a subpoena.
The Washington Post reported in November 2020 that Snyder’s LPs received a $900 million offer from Clearlake Capital’s billionaire co-founders Behdad Eghbali and José Feliciano and Feliciano’s wife Kwanza Jones. The deal was blocked because Snyder tried to exercise his right of first refusal by matching offers for Smith and Rothman instead of Schal, people familiar with the matter said at the time. This has led to controversy over whether Snyder has the right to exercise those rights in a selective manner.
Eghbali and Feliciano, reportedly among the bidders for the Denver Broncos, were sold in June by the Pat Bowlen Trust for $4.65 billion to a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton. This is the highest amount ever paid for an NFL franchise. The owners approved Walton’s purchase in August.
Wednesday’s announcement also came as talks stalled on public financing for a potential new Commander Stadium. The state lawmaker leading the lure of commanders to Virginia said in June that those attempts had ceased. State Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said at the time: “There’s a lot going on there, and a lot of people are saying, ‘Saslau, this thing needs to wait.'”
Prior to Wednesday, the commanders had said Snyder would not sell the team. Following Irsay’s initial public comments, a team spokesperson said: “We are confident that when he has the opportunity to see actual evidence in this case, Mr. Irsay will conclude that the Snyders have no reason to consider selling the franchise. They will not .”