AP sources: Two groups formally submit bids for Commanders
By ROB MAADDI and STEPHEN WHYNO
PHOENIX (AP) Dan Snyder's departure from the NFL is moving closer to reality.
A group led by Josh Harris and Mitchell Rales and another group led by Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos have formally submitted fully financed bids for the NFL’s Washington Commanders, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
Two people confirmed the bid from Harris. Both spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday because details of the bid have not been publicly announced.
The Harris/Rales group includes basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta also has been in the running.
ESPN reported both bids came in at Snyder’s $6 billion asking price. Snyder had yet to accept an offer when the league's finance committee met Monday so his future wasn't openly discussed.
“The information is very little to none in terms of the 31 of us (owners), and probably even the league office right now,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said.
That quickly changed in less than 24 hours.
Harris, who owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils, brought on Rales, a billionaire who also grew up in Maryland, just outside Washington, earlier this year. Johnson, who has ownership experience with Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers and others, later joined the group.
Apostolopoulos is a Toronto native who went to Harvard and is the founder of a private equity venture company.
Three-quarters of the owners would need to approve the sale. A vote could take place at the league meetings in May in Minnesota if Snyder accepts an offer soon, though it's more likely the process will take longer to finalize with both groups involving several owners.
Last fall, with multiple investigations ongoing into the team’s workplace culture and finances, Snyder and his wife Tanya hired a firm to explore selling part or all of the team. That decision came two weeks after Irsay said there was “merit to remove” Snyder, which would take an unprecedented vote of 24 of the other 31 owners.
Selling the team would avoid going down that road, though Snyder has angered some of his colleagues by demanding that owners and the league indemnify him against future legal liability and costs if he sells the team, a person told the AP.
“There would be no reason for us to give any sort of unusual indemnification,” Irsay said.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Snyder’s situation has changed their relationship.
“I think that it’s a little more formal, but I think it’s that way because of the various issues that are involved here,” Jones said. “It’s not ‘lovey-dovey,’ but it’s not really strained in any way.”
Snyder and the team are still under investigation by former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who was retained by the league to look into various aspects of the organization stemming from a congressional review into workplace misconduct that also included a referral to the Federal Trade Commission for potential business improprieties.
A spokesperson declined to comment when asked if Snyder had refused to speak with White, saying it’s a confidential matter between the club and the league.
The sale allows Snyder to avoid speaking to White, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell previously said the findings of White's report will be made public at the conclusion of her investigation. One person said the report will still be released even if Snyder sells the Commanders.
In a statement responding to news of bids being submitted for the Commanders, lawyers for more than 40 former team employees said their clients want an assurance from the league that the report will be released.
Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz said, “Allowing him to sell the team at what will certainly be a large premium without full accountability for his misconduct would be a travesty of justice.”
Dozens of former employees detailing incidents of sexual harassment from their time with Washington beginning in the summer of 2020 prompted the first league investigation by Beth Wilkinson, which led to a $10 million fine and Snyder stepping away from day-to-day operations for a period of time. A lack of a written report sparked the investigation by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which found Snyder played a role in the organization's toxic workplace culture.
Whyno reported from Washington.
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Updated March 29, 2023