Washington football fans got some of the best news in years this week: The Snyders are looking to sell the franchise. The team, which has been a train wreck since they purchased it in 1999, appears to be headed for the market, where it is expected to draw the interest of some of the wealthiest individuals in the world.
Many people now forget that when the Redskins were initially purchased, they were the most valuable franchise in the league, per Forbes, at around $750M. The Snyder ownership tenure and the team’s fecklessness both on and off the field for the past 23 years have caused the operation’s relative value to sag to 6th overall, but it is still considered one of the most valuable properties in the NFL at $5.6B.
Accordingly, it already has a number of potential suitors. Some of those possible buyers are profiled below:
More than two years ago, I posed the question, “Could Jeff Bezos end up buying the Redskins?” A great deal has transpired in that timeframe, not the least of which is a complete re-branding, but one thing has not: Bezos’ interest in buying an NFL team.
Jeff Bezos is looking into buying the Washington Commanders; possible partnership with Jay-Z https://t.co/AWxIw8TKCT— COMMANDERS FOOTBALL (@HogsHaven) November 3, 2022
Bezos is, of course, the founder, executive chairman, and former CEO of Amazon. He currently stands as the 4th wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of around $126B. From a financial perspective, if he really wants the team, it’s his, as there’s no one else in his economic sphere being discussed in conjunction with an NFL purchase.
Bezos also owns the Washington Post, through a holding company, and owns a home in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, DC.
What’s the upside? An individual of Bezos’ means could easily attract the best and brightest minds to manage and run the franchise, and he would have no problem creating a crown jewel venue for the team largely (or completely) on his own dime:
Amazon Field, on the banks of the Anacostia, ringed with a mixed use menagerie of restaurants, high end residential apartments and condos, as well as assorted community amenities would immediately become one of the top destinations - both for tourists and Washingtonians - in the City. It would be Chinatown on steroids, but with a side of chai tea and avocado toast to mellow it out a bit. And it would be completely networked. I envision it as an incubator for Amazon’s next generation ideas, sort of an East Coast campus for the retail/tech giant. The possibilities are endless.
Shawn Corey Carter, known professionally as Jay-Z, got his start as a rapper and eventually grew an entertainment empire as the founder of Roc Nation, described as “a comprehensive talent agency, sports agency, record label, management agency, television and film, fashion clothing line, school & philanthropy.”
With an estimated net worth of $1.3B, Jay-Z would almost certainly need to team with other wealthy investors to purchase the franchise, which makes reports of a potential joint venture with Bezos seem plausible:
ICYMI | Jeff Bezos, Jay-Z looking into purchasing Commanders football team, report sayshttps://t.co/MDg7yJeRlW— 7News DC (@7NewsDC) November 4, 2022
At one time, Jay-Z owned a small share ($1M) of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, though he sold that interest in 2013.
When the Denver Broncos came up for sale earlier this year, a number of potential ownership groups threw their hat in the ring. Ultimately, a group led by the Wal-Mart heirs bought the team for $4.65B this summer.
Byron Allen, the founder and CEO of Entertainment Studios - which owns the Weather Channel, among other media holdings - was part of a group that unsuccessfully bid on the Broncos. Upon missing out on that opportunity, he publicly declared his interest in winning the next one. At this point, Washington appears to be the next one.
Allen’s net worth is a relatively meager - by NFL ownership standards - $800M, so any purchase would rely heavily upon pulling in several partners of similar financial heft.
Despite his financial situation, Allen has made it clear he’s seeking a controlling interest in an NFL team.
Media entrepreneur Byron Allen is indeed working with a a group of investors and plans to pursue the Washington Commanders, per source (1st by @Bloomberg).— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) November 3, 2022
Allen, according to that source, is only interested in controlling ownership, not a minority share.
Media entrepreneur Byron Allen is preparing a second bid this year to acquire the NFL franchise Washington Commanders.https://t.co/fcpa0rHYzT— The Quintessential Gentleman (@theqgentleman) November 4, 2022
Josh Harris was raised in Chevy Chase, MD and attended high school in DC. He made his fortune as co-founder of Apollo Investment, and currently has a net worth of approximately $5.8B. He currently owns the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and is a managing partner in the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. He’s also recently been linked to potentially purchasing a Premier League soccer team in Europe.
As for his NFL interest, Harris, like Allen was in pursuit of the Broncos, and was willing to pay $5B for the team:
Harris’s biggest concern was if he would be fully assured ownership of the team if he put up $5 billion. According to PFT, those in control of the ownership negotiations never solidified full assurance that Harris would become the team’s next majority owner, even with money on standby.
Harris was also reportedly worried that if he put a $5 billion bid on the table, opposing bidders would go higher.
As of this point, I haven’t seen any reports explicitly linking Harris to Washington’s football team.
Ishbia is the chairman and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, based in Michigan, and has a net worth of approximately $4.4B. He and his brother, Matt, who is also a billionaire, were apparently part of group bidding on the Denver Broncos earlier in the year.
Mat Ishbia: “The NFL is a great league and Washington is one of the elite franchises. I am interested in exploring this opportunity further in the very near future.” With @NickiJhabvala on another prospective Commanders bidder.... https://t.co/0rrMOPE1BS— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) November 4, 2022
Robert F. Smith
Smith, the wealthiest African American man in US, with a net worth of around $6.7B, was apparently begged by the NFL to bid on the Broncos. Reports at the time were that he was reluctant to bid.
A New York-based private equity investor, Smith grew up a Broncos fan. When asked for comment on the potential Broncos purchase, his representative offered the following:
“Robert’s priorities right now are on the fight for voting rights and economic justice rather than being … an owner of a team,’’ a source said in a statement quoted by multiple outlets. “He continues to be most focused on how he can best help underserved communities gain access to capital, healthcare, education, and the ballot box. Pursuing ownership of the Broncos is not on his radar right now.”
Behdad Eghbali and José Feliciano
Eghbali and Feliciano, the founders of Clearlake Capital Group, were among the bidders for the Broncos earlier this year. With a net worth of around $3.4B apiece, they’re certainly in a strong position to head up a bidding group for Washington’s team, and Front Office Sports has confirmed their interest.
If their names sound familiar, that’s because they had previously tried to buy into a minority share of the Redskins for $900M from Fred Smith, Dwight Schar, and Robert Rothman in 2020. Snyder blocked the sale at the time.
NEW: Dan Snyder hasn't even formally put the Commanders on the market as would-be (and wannabe) owners line up. Snyder will make the call on who to sell the franchise to — and bankers describe to @FOS how that could pose a challenge for Jeff Bezos. https://t.co/fFIbpvKsBz— A.J. Perez (@byajperez) November 4, 2022
Is the owner of the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards - and reported bidder on the Washington Nationals - interested in the football team as well? With a net worth of $1.6B, much of that tied up in the aforementioned teams, Leonsis might have enough to be part of a partnership.
No matter Leonsis’ actual level of interest, it would be crazy to not go open the books of a pro sports team in the same market while they’re available for opening. https://t.co/IFancyv621— michael phillips (@michaelpRTD) November 4, 2022
Who Is Out?
The Mars Family
The Mars Family, with a net worth of around $100B, has ties to the DC region, but has officially declared themselves out of the running.
The Mars family wanted everyone to know “Jacqueline Mars is absolutely not going to buy the Commanders” - Spokesperson for the Mars family. @wusa9 #HTTC— Darren M. Haynes (@DarrenMHaynes) November 4, 2022
Here’s more on who else has the cash to buy the team https://t.co/3IENcMifEL
In reviewing the handful of individuals potentially capable of purchasing an NFL team, I continue to believe that Jeff Bezos, with his expansive wealth and strong connection to the DC area remains - by a considerable margin - the likely next owner of Washington’s football club.
A potential partnership with another entrepreneur steeped in brand development and exposure building, like Jay-Z, forms a nearly unassailable alliance that could, quite easily, rocket Washington’s football team to the most valuable sports’ property in the world within the next 5 years. Let’s hope it comes to fruition.
I don’t know the answer but I know I would SMASH the over. pic.twitter.com/n0PyOhVjsm— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) November 4, 2022
Who would you like to see as Washington’s next owner?
This poll is closed
Bezos & Jay-Z
Team Byron Allen
Robert F. Smith