Josh Harris, an owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, agreed in principle to buy the Washington Commanders for a record $6 billion from Dan Snyder, the longtime owner of the team plagued by scandals that drew investigations from Congress, the NFL and others .
With the end of Snyder’s tenure the NFL begins to distance itself from a painful chapter in league history and right the future of the popular franchise, which under Snyder had been tarnished by accusations of a toxic workplace and unable to secure a new stadium.
The sale was confirmed by a person with knowledge of the agreement who was not authorized to speak publicly about the terms.
The agreement comes as the NFL continues its second investigation into allegations of widespread sexual harassment made against executives at the team, including Snyder, as well as potential financial improprieties. Those allegations, coupled with Snyder’s inability to build the stadium a The team’s fans, had pushed many of the owners of the league’s other teams to consider voting to force him to sell the team, which he bought in 1999 for $800 million.
Once the Harris group submits its deal, the sale would have to be approved by the league’s finance committee and by at least three-quarters of the 31 other team owners, which could occur within weeks. Harris’ group includes Mitchell Rales, a billionaire from the Washington, DC, area, and a group of limited partners that includes Magic Johnson.
The owners will next meet in person as a group in Minneapolis on May 22 and 23. Last June, the Walton family, founders of Walmart, bought the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion, about twice as much as the previous record high for an NFL team .
Spokesmen for the Commanders, the NFL and for Josh Harris declined to comment on the agreement.
Snyder and his wife, Tanya, a co-owner of the team, formally began a search for a buyer in November 2022, when they hired Bank of America to seek offers for all or a portion of the Commanders. They began to field offers just weeks after the owner Jim Irsay of the Indianapolis Colts said that Snyder “needs to be removed,” confirming what owners had been saying privately for months.
In recent years, Snyder has fended off a growing array of scandals and legal challenges. In July 2020, Snyder ceded to years of pressure, including from one of the team’s biggest sponsors, FedEx, and agreed to change its longtime name, which many considered a slur against Native Americans.
Weeks later, dozens of women accused Snyder and top executives of sexual harassment of female employees. Snyder hired a prominent Washington lawyer to look into the charges, which were detailed in The Washington Post, but the league quickly took over the investigation.
Snyder sued his limited partners claiming that they had tried to smear his reputation to undermine his ownership of the team, triggering a highly contentious legal battle that included accusations that Snyder financially mismanaged the club. the spring of 2021 after the owners allowed Snyder to take on $450 million in additional debt so he could buy out the three limited partners whose stakes amounted to 40 percent of the club.
In July 2021, the league finalized the club a record $10 million and ordered Snyder to stay away from the team after a league-helmed 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.
Though some executives were fired and others left, Snyder urged the league to keep the specific findings private, and Commissioner Roger Goodell released only a cursory summary. This led a congressional committee to launch its own investigation into the treatment of offam’s women in the te . Witnesses tested to new claims against Snyder, who was deposed for more than 11 hours.
After the new allegations arose, the league ordered a second investigation led by Mary Jo White, a former federal prosecutor. The NFL has yet to release her findings.
In November 2022, the US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia opened a criminal investigation into allegations that the team committed financial improprieties. Snyder and the team were also sued by the attorneys general of Virginia and the District of Columbia. The w as settled, with the team agreeing to pay a $425,000 fine and refund about $200,000 in deposits to season-ticket holders.
Amid the legal inquiries and diminished public support, Snyder faced significant challenges in building a new stadium in the region to replace the aging FedEx Field, which opened in 1997 and has been plagued by pipe leaks and other structural failings.
The Commanders finished with winning records in just six of 24 seasons and won just two playoff games under Snyder. The losing, coupled with the creaky stadium, began to repel fans. The team routinely played to sold-out crowds during the 1980s and ’90s , but ranked near the bottom of the NFL in home attendance in recent seasons.
Still, Forbes in 2022 ranked the Commanders the eighth most valuable team in sports, ahead of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and Manchester United of the Premier League, in large part thanks to the NFL’s revenue sharing model and the windfall ensured by football’s media rights deal .
Jenny Vrentas contributed reporting.