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Washington Commanders Sale: The Josh Harris group has reached an agreement to buy the team for $6.05 billion

It's almost over!

The Washington Redskins play the Minnesota Vikings in NFL football Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The long, national nightmare is almost over for fans of Washington’s NFL franchise. Dan Snyder has agreed to sell the team to the Josh Harris/Mitchell Rales group for $6.05 billion. The Snyders announced the hiring of Bank of America Securities on November 2, 2022 to explore potential transactions involving the franchise. They wouldn’t confirm that a full sale was happening throughout the process, but that was always seen as the end goal.

Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins/Football Team/Commanders have been under increasing scrutiny of the last 5 years as stories came out about the organization’s toxic workplace, sexual harassment allegations, congressional investigations, NFL investigations, and the current federal criminal investigations for financial improprieties. The NFL and the 31 other owners have also been pressuring Snyder to take the money and run. He has been a stain on the league for decades, and now they are finally getting rid of an owner who is seen as being responsible for depressing a region and fanbase that was once a top team in the league.

Dan Snyder bought the Washington Redskins for $800 million in May, 1999, and has been in charge of a massive decline in wins, playoff appearances, and size of the fanbase. FedEx Field has continued to get smaller as more and more seats get removed due to shrinking ticket sales. Snyder has seen team revenues fall to near the bottom of the league. He also couldn’t get local funding from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. which was seen as a massive problem by other owners.

These are all problems that new owners Josh Harris and Mitchell Rales will inherit and they will need to be addressed quickly. The financing issues will likely have some barriers removed now that Dan Snyder isn’t the owner, but they will still need to find a location, and build the stadium within the next few years. The team’s lease with Prince George’s County runs through the 2027 season, but the stadium is owned by the infranchise, and the team could continue to play there past that season.

The deal to purchase the team has not been finalized, and Adam Schefter reported after the initial Sportico news broke that Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos was still in contention with another $6 billion bid. Rapoport’s report confirms initial reports that the Harris bid will likely be the winner, and it’s just down to the fine print details now. The NFL finance committee will likely have no issues approving the deal before it goes to a vote by the other owners. They meet again in May and that is the expected timeline for Dan Snyder to finally sell the team.

Josh Harris

Josh Harris, 58, built his wealth as co-founder of investment firm Apollo Global Management. With business partner David S. Blitzer(Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment), They are owners of the Philadelphia 76ers(NBA), the New Jersey Devils(NHL), Crystal Palace FC(Premier League) as well as passive partners in the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Finlay’s report brings in another name that was brought up after the Snyders announced they were exploring a sale in early November, but we haven’t much since. Josh Harris owns the Philadelphia Sixers(NBA) and the New Jersey Devils(NHL), and was very interested in purchasing the Denver Broncos last year. That team was eventually sold to the Walton-Penner group for $4.65 billion, but Harris was reportedly ready to pay $5 billion. He didn’t place that bid, because he didn’t receive assurances that would seal the deal, and he didn’t want to get into a bidding war with another group. Now Harris, a Washington. D.C. native, could be a lead candidate to buy his hometown team.

Mitchell Rales

Rales, 66, though not a household name, is well known in business circles as co-founder of Danaher Corporation and is among the D.C. area’s wealthiest residents, with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $5.5 billion.

He had given away $2 billion at the time he and his wife, Emily Wei Rales, signed the Giving Pledge, created in 2010 by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, in which the world’s billionaires make a public vow to give away the bulk of their fortunes to philanthropic causes before or upon their death. NFL owners Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons and Stephen Ross of the Miami Dolphins are fellow signatories, as was late Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen.

Rales grew up in Bethesda as the third of four sons in what he has described as a middle-class family. His father was in the home-improvement business, but rather than pave his children’s path, he urged his children to create their own opportunities.

He and his eldest brother, Steven, started out by buying smaller companies and real estate properties in 1979. From that, they co-founded Danaher, named for a trout stream in Montana, and built it, through acquisition and expansion, into a conglomerate of companies that manufacture medical-research equipment, dental equipment, piping, wrenches and drill parts, among other things.

Mitchell Rales has shunned interviews and the spotlight since a Forbes article early in the brothers’ careers cast them as “Raiders in short pants” — a descriptor he took as a swipe at their youth, inexperience and lack of substance.

That slight, Rales explained in a 2012 Washington Post interview, drew him to abstract impressionists, who were treated in their day as artistic “outlaws.”

“It was the same thing for my brother and me,” Rales said. “It was these two young guys doing what they were doing. People said: ‘Something must be wrong. They did not pay their dues.’ ”

Rales maintains a low public profile outside the art world. He is president of the National Gallery of Art and co-founder and chief benefactor of Glenstone, the private art museum he founded with his wife in 2006. Its modern pavilions showcase their world-class collection of modern and contemporary art, with additional installations arrayed on the nearly 300-acre property in Potomac — roughly three miles from Snyder’s palatial River House estate, which is on the market for $49 million.

In the world of commerce, Rales and his brother are regarded among the great business builders of the era, with Danaher’s stock skyrocketing over the past 30 years.

Danaher was a single-digit, billion-dollar market-value company when Boston-based venture capitalist Alan G. Spoon joined the company’s board in 1999. Today, Spoon notes, it’s one of the more valuable companies in the Mid-Atlantic and on the New York Stock Exchange with a value well over $100 billion.

“This hasn’t been done though short-term trading or maneuvers,” said Spoon, a former president of The Post. “It has been done through a long-term commitment that is mindful of longer-term competitive dynamics to build a lasting edge.”

At the heart of Danaher’s success, Spoon said, is a values-based philosophy of continuous improvement, known as the Danaher Business System, that focuses on accountability, the customer, turning problems into opportunity and the conviction that in business “the best team wins.”

“Continuous improvement is the way the place lives,” Spoon said. “It shows up in the way investments turn into ever-growing, valuable franchises and enterprises. And it’s not unrelated to the way one would think about maybe a great football franchise operating.”

That approach is what Spoon expects Harris and Rales to bring to the Commanders, if their bid is successful.

“Mitch keenly supports whatever enterprise he connects himself to, but stylistically, Mitch won’t choose to be the face of the team if they succeed,” Spoon said. “He’ll certainly be there in financial support and more. But Josh appears to be taking the lead on this.”

Rales lived through the glorious eras of Washington’s NFL team in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

“In Mitch’s mind, he sees the palpable heritage of the team and its future as being a rallying point of the community,” Spoon said. “That’s the way Mitch operates. Glenstone is a commitment to the community. His philanthropy is a commitment to the community.”

Rales co-founded the Danaher Corporation in 1983 and is one of 11 billionaires currently in the DC region. He grew up in Bethesda, and is a graduate of Walt Whitman High School.

For those in the area, he’s also the developer and financier of the Glenstone Museum in Potomac, which is truly a local gem in the region.

Magic Johnson

The former NBA star and notable sports investor was also part of Harris’s failed bid for the NFL’s Denver Broncos last year. He is providing both money and expertise to the Commanders bid, said the people, who were granted anonymity because the details are private. The group is one of a handful still in talks with current owner Dan Snyder, who is exploring a possible sale amid numerous accusations and investigations into financial impropriety and a hostile work environment.