Josh Harris has a signed, exclusive deal with Daniel Snyder for Commanders

Josh Harris has a signed, exclusive deal with Daniel Snyder for Commanders

A group of investors led by Josh Harris completed a signed agreement Friday to purchase the Washington Commanders from Daniel Snyder. The agreement gives Harris and his partners an exclusivity window to attempt to have the $6.05 billion deal approved by the NFL finance committee and ratified by the league’s team owners.

“We look forward to the formal approval of our ownership by the NFL in the months ahead and to having the honor to serve as responsible and accountable stewards of the Commanders franchise moving forward,” Harris said in a statement.

The two sides jointly announced they have “entered into a purchase and sale agreement.” Three people familiar with the deal confirmed the agreement is signed and exclusive.

“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement for the sale of the Commanders franchise with Josh Harris, an area native, and his impressive group of partners,” Snyder and wife Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, said in a statement. “We look forward to the prompt completion of this transaction and to rooting for Josh and the team in the coming years.”

The sale ultimately must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 NFL team owners, following a recommendation by the eight-owner finance committee. The prospective final ratification vote of the owners would be taken “in the coming months,” a person familiar with the league’s inner workings said Friday. The owners are expected to be updated on the Commanders’ sale at their meeting scheduled for May 22-23 in Minneapolis, according to that person.

“League staff and the finance committee will review details of the proposed Washington transaction,” the NFL said in a statement.

The Harris group’s deal with Snyder previously had been unsigned and nonexclusive, leaving the process open to other potential bidders. That tentative deal still had been sent to the NFL for an informal review, a departure from the league’s normal approval process.

After reviewing the deal Wednesday during a meeting at the NFL’s offices in New York, members of the finance committee raised issues that could keep the sale from being put to a ratification vote at the meeting in Minneapolis, according to three people familiar with the league’s inner workings and the owners’ views.

NFL finance committee has concerns about Josh Harris’s Commanders deal

Harris’s group apparently would have to pay a “breakup fee” if the deal is not finalized. The amount of the fee and the length of the exclusivity period were not immediately clear. The agreement was signed Friday afternoon, according to a person familiar with the sales process.

“On behalf of our entire ownership group … I want to express how excited we are to be considered by the NFL to be the next owners of the Washington Commanders and how committed we are to delivering a championship-caliber franchise for this city and its fan base,” Harris said in his statement. “Growing up in Chevy Chase, I experienced firsthand the excitement around the team, including its three Super Bowl victories and long-term winning culture.”

Because of the agreement, other bidders are barred from the process for the specified period. At least one other bidder, Canadian commercial real estate developer and private equity executive Steve Apostolopoulos, remained active in the process after Harris and Snyder reached the unsigned, nonexclusive deal that was submitted to the NFL.

Apostolopoulos called the bidding process “very open, transparent and enjoyable” and said in a statement Friday: “I could not have been more impressed with the opportunity and people involved, and I know the Commanders will continue to be a foundational franchise in the NFL. This process has strengthened our resolve to acquire a professional sports franchise and I look forward to finding the opportunity that is right for me and my family.”

Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, said in a televised interview with CNBC last month that he submitted a $5.6 billion bid for the Commanders but would not raise his offer. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, used a New York investment firm, Allen & Company, to evaluate a potential bid on the Commanders, two people with knowledge of that relationship have said. But a person familiar with the process said last month that Bezos did not plan to submit a bid.

Harris, a private equity and sports investor, owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. He co-founded Apollo Global Management and has an estimated net worth of $5.9 billion, according to Forbes.

Harris’s group includes Potomac, Md., billionaire businessman and philanthropist Mitchell Rales and NBA great Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Rales is the co-founder of the Danaher Corporation. Other investors who have been identified more recently include Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive of Google; Alejandro Santo Domingo, the billionaire heir to a family beer fortune; and Mitchell Morgan, the founder and CEO of Pennsylvania-based Morgan Properties.

“I could not be more excited to be a partner in the proposed new ownership group for the Washington Commanders,” Johnson wrote Friday on Twitter. “Josh Harris has assembled an amazing group who share a commitment to not only doing great things on the field but to making a real impact in the DMV community. I’m so excited to get to work on executing our vision for the Commanders and our loyal fan base!”

Harris said in his statement Friday that the group’s investors also include Mark Ein, a venture capitalist and Washington-area native who is a longtime friend of Harris and assumed management and operation of D.C.’s Citi Open tennis tournament in 2019; David Blitzer, Harris’s partner in Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment; Lee Ainslie, an investor and hedge fund manager who founded Maverick Capital; Eric Holoman, the operating partner of Magic Johnson Enterprises and the managing partner of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks; Michael Li, the owner of Range Group; Michael Sapir, the co-founder and CEO of ProShares; and Andy Snyder, the CEO of the investment firm Cambridge Information Group and the chairman of the analytics company Clarivate.

“Together these individuals and families have the collective resources and shared commitment to support our vision for the Commanders,” Harris said. “We look forward to running a world-class organization and making significant investments on and off the field to achieve excellence and have a lasting and positive impact on the community.”

Ein wrote on Twitter: “Can’t wait to help make the team as beloved throughout our DMV community as it was when [I] had my best childhood memories going to games with my dad as a little boy.”

Joe Gibbs, the franchise’s former three-time Super Bowl-winning coach, is not an investor in the group but served as an unofficial adviser to Harris during the process.

“I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Josh Harris and the leadership team during this process and fully support his efforts to lead the new ownership group of the Commanders,” Gibbs said in a statement Friday. “The NFL has grown a great deal since my time as a coach in this League, but what hasn’t changed is my belief that with great leadership from the top, the drive to win on the field and a commitment to culture — championship teams are created. Josh and his team share these values and I am committed to doing what I can to reconnect this great franchise to the community, fan base, and alumni.”

Forbes estimated the value of the Commanders at $5.6 billion last year. The record sale price for an NFL franchise is the $4.65 billion that a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton paid last year to buy the Denver Broncos from the Pat Bowlen Trust.

The members of the finance committee discussed the Commanders deal when they met for about 2½ hours Wednesday afternoon as part of two days of regularly scheduled committee meetings at the NFL’s offices in Manhattan.

According to one person familiar with the deliberations, questions were raised during the committee’s meeting about some financial aspects of the deal. That person said the deal is complex and includes an unusually large number of limited partners. The finance committee generally vets any proposed sale and makes a recommendation to the owners, who usually follow the committee’s recommendation.

NFL is talking with Daniel Snyder reps; sale approval could come in stages

Some connected to the process remained confident after Wednesday’s finance committee meeting that the deal eventually would go through while conceding that the timing of approval by the league and the owners had become more uncertain. The major obstacles to completion of the deal, in their view, remained the NFL’s dealings with Snyder, not with Harris.

It is not known to what extent the Harris group might indemnify Snyder against legal liability and costs as part of the sale agreement. Since late February, multiple people with direct knowledge of the league’s inner workings have said that Snyder was seeking such indemnification from a buyer or from the league and other owners. The Commanders said in February that such depictions were inaccurate.

The NFL is conducting its second investigation of Snyder and the Commanders; this one is being led by attorney Mary Jo White. Snyder has declined to be interviewed by White for the investigation, three people with direct knowledge of the league’s inner workings said in March. White was expected to make at least one more attempt before completing her investigation, according to one of those people.

The Post reported in February that Snyder was seeking for the NFL to keep confidential the findings of White’s investigation. ESPN reported Friday that Snyder and his attorneys are lobbying the NFL to limit the release of White’s report. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said that the league will release White’s findings publicly, even if Snyder sells the team.

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