American rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z and American entrepreneur, media proprietor, investor, computer engineer, and commercial astronaut Jeff Bezos to acquire the Washington Commanders in a bid that could value the National Football League team at up to $6bn, said two people briefed about the matter.
The founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post newspaper is the frontrunner to buy the team as existing owner Dan Snyder has been forced to sell after being engulfed in a financial scandal. Two people said Bezos was ready to pay more than $5.5bn.
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Josh Harris, the billionaire private equity executive who left Apollo last year after a messy succession battle, is also competing to buy the team formerly known as the Redskins before Snyder came under pressure to change its racially insensitive branding, those people said.
A deal worth about $6bn would be a record for a sports team and the latest sign that the world’s wealthiest individuals are willing to spend top dollar to secure sports assets, particularly NFL teams that rarely come up for sale. The last sale occurred in June, when Rob Walton, the billionaire heir to the Walmart fortune, acquired the Denver Broncos for $4.6bn, according to Financial Times.
Jay-Z, the rapper and entrepreneur, runs a sports agency through Roc Nation, his entertainment group whose clients include NFL player Saquon Barkley. The 52-year-old, whose real name is Shawn Carter, already has influence over the league: Roc Nation in 2019 agreed to a partnership to advise on the Super Bowl halftime show and help the league’s social justice efforts.
The team’s sale comes amid new scrutiny into Snyder’s financial management of the football franchise after years of investigations into its alleged toxic culture.
The Commanders said Wednesday that Daniel and Tanya Snyder, his wife and the franchise’s co-CEO, had hired an investment bank to “consider potential transactions” related to the Commanders. The team did not specify whether the Snyders intend to sell all of the franchise or a minority share. A Commander’s spokesperson said Wednesday, “We are exploring all options.”
The consideration of a sale comes with Snyder and the Commanders under investigation by the NFL, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the attorneys general of D.C. and Virginia. Investigators for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia have interviewed witnesses about allegations of financial impropriety involving the team, multiple people familiar with the situation said Wednesday. The team has denied committing any financial malfeasance, per Washington Post.
Forbes estimated in August that the Commanders are worth $5.6 billion. On the day after the Commanders’ announcement, those in and around the NFL began to consider a list of potential buyers that could include some of the world’s wealthiest individuals.
Media entrepreneur Byron Allen, who previously bid on the Broncos, also is preparing a bid for the Commanders, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the early stage of the process. Allen, if successful, would become the NFL’s first Black principal team owner after the owners approved a resolution in March endorsing diversity in franchise ownership.
“[NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell and [New England Patriots owner] Bob Kraft had courted Byron Allen to take a good look at the Denver Broncos because they wanted to do everything they could to make history and have the first Black owner of an NFL team,” said the person, who made clear Allen would not join any groups as a minority investor. “The only thing that Byron Allen would be interested in is controlling ownership.”
The group being mentioned by industry analysts and other observers includes Bezos and Jay-Z; Tesla and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk; Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and his partner in bidding on the Washington Nationals, Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein; and Clearlake Capital co-founders Behdad Eghbali and Jose E. Feliciano, along with other former bidders for the Broncos.
“Owning an NFL team is the ultimate trophy,” Jack Evans, a former D.C. Council member, said in a phone interview Thursday. “More so than a baseball team, more so than anything else for those who have that kind of money. It limits, though, the field of who can buy it.
The leagues want a person. They don’t want a group.”
Evans, as head of the council’s finance committee, orchestrated deals that brought the new convention center, Capital One Arena and Nationals Park to the city. He said he believes “there is no turning back” for Snyder and that he must sell the team. The price could be as high as $7 billion, Evans estimated.
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Sources: Financial Times, Washington Post
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