Commanders sale nears NFL approval after ‘very positive’ meeting

Commanders sale nears NFL approval after ‘very positive’ meeting

NEW YORK — Josh Harris met for approximately 2½ hours here Wednesday with members of the NFL finance committee regarding his $6.05 billion deal to purchase the Washington Commanders from Daniel Snyder. The meeting was productive and, barring any unforeseen setbacks, the sale is advancing toward expected ratification by the league’s team owners as soon as next month, two people familiar with the deliberations said.

“It was very positive,” one of those people said. “It went really well. It’s not done yet. But unless something crazy happens, it’s going to get done and it will get approved.”

According to that person, Harris was cooperative Wednesday with the eight-owner finance committee and continued to pledge to make the requested adjustments to his deal. If that process is completed as anticipated, that person said, the finance committee will recommend approval of the deal to the owners, who could vote to ratify it in mid- to late July, that person said.

A second person with knowledge of the NFL’s inner workings said progress was made during Wednesday’s meeting, and while more work must be done, a ratification vote of the owners could be taken by late July. The deal must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 owners, who generally follow the finance committee’s recommendation. So the endorsement of the committee would virtually ensure that Harris will become the Commanders’ next owner.

Harris was accompanied at Wednesday’s meeting by Mitchell Rales, a top investor in the prospective ownership group. Harris declined to comment afterward. But he and others in the group accompanying him clearly were upbeat following the meeting, as they exchanged enthusiastic handshakes before leaving.

Earlier, Harris and Rales arrived separately for the meeting. Each declined to comment as they entered.

“We’re all impressed with their commitment and enthusiasm,” one of the people familiar with the deliberations said.

The NFL declined to comment.

The meeting took place at the league’s offices in Manhattan and came after Harris, a private equity investor who owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, had offered assurances to the finance committee that he would make the requested adjustments to his deal, according to three people familiar with the deliberations.

Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, the chairman of the finance committee, declined to comment as he arrived for the meeting around 2 p.m. Eastern time. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who are members of the committee, also were seen arriving for the meeting.

Harris and Rales exited around 4:30 p.m.

Harris reached a signed, exclusive agreement with Snyder on May 12 after a nonexclusive version of the deal had been submitted to the NFL for an informal review. It is not known how long Harris’s exclusivity with Snyder lasts, but some people connected to the process have estimated it could be either 60 or 90 days. The expiration of Harris’s exclusivity apparently could drive the timeline by which the NFL will schedule an approval vote of the owners. Harris’s group would owe Snyder a breakup fee if the deal is not ratified, a person familiar with the sale process has said.

Harris’s investment firm, 26North Partners, is based a few blocks from the league’s Park Avenue headquarters.

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The owners are not scheduled to meet again until October, but the NFL could call a special meeting before then to take the ratification vote on the Commanders sale. The vote could be taken remotely, although the league usually prefers an in-person meeting for a franchise sale approval.

The owners were updated on the sale but did not vote when they met last month in the Minneapolis area. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said then that he expected the deal to reach a point at which the owners would approve it.

The finance committee is expected to have multiple remote meetings in the coming weeks to attempt to apply the finishing touches to the deal.

The committee raised concerns about the deal when it met last month in New York, according to people with direct knowledge of the deliberations. The committee believed then that the deal was well above the NFL’s $1.1 billion debt limit for franchise acquisitions, according to one of those people. But Harris more recently has pledged to structure the deal in a manner acceptable to the committee, the people familiar with the deliberations said.

The committee now regards the deal as acceptable, provided that Harris follows through on what he has promised to do, one of the people familiar with Wednesday’s conversations said.

“You always want more liquidity,” that person said. “But it’s a good deal.”

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The committee intends to work with Harris on certain tax-related issues, according to that person. There were conversations during Wednesday’s meeting about team operational issues, the level of scrutiny faced by NFL owners and other topics, that person said. The committee also has a favorable view of Rales, according to that person.

Harris’s group includes Rales, the co-founder of the Danaher Corporation; Mark Ein, a venture capitalist and Washington-area native who is chair of the DC Open tennis tournament; and NBA great Earvin “Magic” Johnson as investors.

The owners are eager to approve Harris’s deal if possible and remove Snyder from the NFL’s ownership ranks, according to people with knowledge of the league’s inner workings and the owners’ views. Some of those people also have described Snyder as increasingly eager to finish the process, bolstering hopes that the NFL and the owners can resolve issues with Snyder related to legal indemnification and the league’s investigation of Snyder and the Commanders being conducted by attorney Mary Jo White.

The findings of White’s investigation could be released by the time the owners vote to approve Harris’s deal, one of the people familiar with the NFL’s inner workings and the owners’ views said Wednesday. Those findings could lead to a fine being imposed by Goodell, according to that person.

“It will be good for everyone to have this behind us,” that person said.

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