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Several groups submitted bids to buy the Washington Commanders before a target was solicited in late December from the investment bank handling the sale, but none reached the $7 billion mark owner Daniel Snyder is aiming for the team, according to one person familiar with the process.
According to several people familiar with the process, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos endured this phase of the bidding process, potentially opening the door to other buyers interested in acquiring the franchise.
Some of those familiar with the process, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the confidential nature of the bid, said it’s unclear whether Bezos’ inaction reflects ambivalence about the price Snyder is seeking, a ploy to sit back and ultimately to beat the top bid or some other concerns about making an offer.
Due to Bezos’ massive net worth, many concede that if he wanted it enough to simply beat someone else’s highest bid, the team would be his. Given the uncertainty about his intentions, several groups of potential buyers are vying to be next in line if Bezos exits or puts a firm cap on his willingness to pay, people connected to the process said.
Daniel Snyder names England as his usual place of residence in the most recent filing
If Bezos doesn’t ramp up his efforts, some of the bidders who tried to buy the Denver Broncos last year could be among the beneficiaries. The finalists for the Broncos were expected to be contenders for commanders, said a person familiar with the process.
These include media entrepreneur Byron Allen; Clearlake Capital co-founders Behdad Eghbali and Jose E. Feliciano, who previously sought to acquire a minority interest in the Commanders from Snyder’s former limited partners; Josh Harris, co-founder of Apollo Global Management and owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils; and Todd L. Boehly, CEO of Eldridge Industries, chairman of Chelsea Football Club and co-owner of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.
It is believed that Boehly was keenly interested in the commanders during the bidding process, but it is not clear if he remains active in this pursuit. It’s also unclear if the co-founders of Boehly and Clearlake Capital have joined forces in a potential Commanders bid or have pursued the team in separate ways. A spokesman for Boehly has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Boehly, 49, a Bethesda’s Landon School graduate in 1991, led the consortium that won the hotly contested global auction to buy Chelsea FC for around $3.1 billion and more than $2 billion for a stadium and provided other team expenses. The transaction was largely funded by Clearlake Capital.
Voices for Harris, who grew up in Chevy Chase and attended field school, have repeatedly declined to comment, as have voices for Eghbali and Feliciano.
Mat Ishbia, President and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, expressed an interest in the Commanders in November. But he is no longer pursuing the team, a spokesman for him said last month after he reached an agreement to buy the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury from Robert Sarver. This deal valued the Suns and Mercury at $4 billion and included all of Sarver’s interests in the teams and a portion of the interests of Sarver’s owning partners.
The Pat Bowlen Trust sold the Broncos in June to a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton. This $4.65 billion purchase is the record sale price for an NFL franchise. The owners officially ratified the deal in August. Forbes estimated in August that the Commanders are worth $5.6 billion.
Potential bidders for Commanders are fixated on Jeff Bezos’ intent
Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, has an estimated net worth of $121.3 billion, according to Forbes, which ranks him as the fourth richest person in the world. Several NFL owners have expressed interest in Bezos pursuing an NFL franchise. He has also been linked to the Seattle Seahawks, which are likely to be sold in the coming years by the trust of late owner Paul Allen, a former Microsoft co-founder.
Bezos’ pursuit of an NFL team could be complicated if he decides to return to Amazon as the company’s CEO, a role he ceded to his chosen successor Andy Jassy in July 2021. Several business publications, including Fortune, reported this month that it was a possibility based on analyst forecasts. NFL team owners and league executives might see this as a conflict, since Amazon pays the NFL about $1 billion annually to ship the league’s “Thursday Night Football” package. As the owner of an NFL franchise, Bezos would have access to privileged financial information relevant to future broadcast negotiations.
In November, a person familiar with the situation said Bezos was interested in the Commanders and could bid with music mogul Jay-Z as an investor in his group. Bezos declined to comment on his potential bid for the Commanders at the National Portrait Gallery’s 2022 Portrait of a Nation Gala this month.
“I can’t talk about it,” Bezos said at the time. During a television interview with CNN around the same time as he sat next to his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez, Bezos said, “I can’t say much about that right now. But she likes football.”
It is not yet clear when the bidding process will be completed. Some of those linked to the process have dismissed characterizations that the end-December target for bids requested by the investment bank was a firm deadline, saying the process is more fluid. That makes it difficult for other bidders to know if Bezos is involved or not, or if he could get even more involved. Front Office Sports reported Sunday that Bezos had no offer.
Commanders have said that Snyder and his wife Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, have hired BofA Securities, a division of Bank of America, to review potential transactions for the franchise. Commanders have not indicated whether the Snyders intend to sell all or part of the franchise. Four people familiar with the process recently said they believe an outright sale is the most likely outcome. All spoke on condition of anonymity as the deliberations being conducted by Bank of America are kept top secret.
In a public filing in November related to the incorporation process with the Registrar of Companies for England and Wales, the Snyders listed England as the country or state in which they are “normally” resident. Daniel Snyder did not attend the Commanders’ season finale Jan. 8 against the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
Ank, hired by Daniel Snyder, is driving the Commanders sale process
Any sale of all or part of the team would need to be ratified by at least three-fourths of the league’s other team owners, giving them some degree of control over Snyder’s choice of a buyer.
The NFL is conducting its second investigation into Snyder and the Commanders, an investigation overseen by Attorney Mary Jo White. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said in October that he and his co-owners should seriously consider a vote to remove Snyder from the Commanders’ ownership. This would require the consent of at least three quarters of the owners. Several owners told the Post in September they believed that ousting Snyder from the NFL’s ownership ranks would be seriously considered, either by convincing him to sell his franchise or by voting to remove him.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform wrote last month in its final report on its Democrat-led investigation into the team’s workplace that Snyder “obstructed” the committee’s investigation and that he “allowed and complied with troubling behavior” in the team’s workplace involved”. The report said Snyder made evasive and “misleading” statements before the committee in July.
The office of Karl A. Racine, then the Democratic Attorney General for DC, filed two civil lawsuits against the Commanders last year. Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) fined the team $250,000 for improperly withholding security deposits from ticket holders through a settlement with the commanders. Investigators for the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia have been interviewing witnesses about allegations of financial irregularities involving the team, according to several people familiar with the situation. Virginia Attorney General Jason S. Miyares’s (R) office is also investigating.