With news spreading that Commanders owner Dan Snyder is considering a potential sale of the team, speculation about who could possibly purchase the franchise has run rampant. Obvious names of some of the world and country’s richest people have surfaced, such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, and Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein. Former comedian and head of Entertainment Studios Byron Allen and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos were named by a source with knowledge of the situation as individuals who have expressed interest in bidding for the team, according to Mark Maske, Nicki Jhabvala, and Liz Clarke of The Washington Post.
Allen was one of the bidders for the Broncos and strives to become the NFL’s first Black principal team owner. He was courted quite a bit by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft during the Broncos’ sale in a concerted effort to help make that a reality. The league has a special interest in helping Allen after the owners “approved a resolution in March endorsing diversity in franchise ownership.”
What makes this difficult to accomplish for Allen is the league guideline that essentially requires a purchaser to have 30% of the final sales price liquid and available at the time of the purchase. With the Broncos selling at $4.65BB, the Commanders are largely expected to surpass $5BB. Forbes “estimated in August that the Commanders are worth $5.6BB,” and Jack Evans, a former D.C. council member, estimated that the team could sell for as much as $7BB. This requires the available amount to be upwards of $1.50-2.10BB.
An outrageous down payment like that makes it extremely difficult for someone like Allen to make the purchase alone, and Allen has made it clear that he would not like to join any groups as a minority investor. It sounds like, in order to make that happen, the league would have to revise the rules or make an exception to them, which could potentially happen if the league truly wants to encourage diversity in franchise ownership. It’s not likely that this will take precedence over bid price, though.
Bezos, on the other hand, being the fourth-richest person in the world, is in a much better position to cover the required initial amount with an estimated net worth of $113.2BB. The source who named Bezos claims that the Amazon executive might be interested in a group bid including music mogul Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z.
Bezos has ties to both D.C. and the NFL in his business experience. He owns The Washington Post and Amazon carries the NFL’s current “Thursday Night Football” package. Bezos has spent plenty of time with Goodell, attending a game with him earlier this year, and Kraft has advocated for Bezos to be involved in Seattle, where the Seahawks may soon find themselves for sale by the trust of late owner Paul Allen.
Carter also has ties to the NFL through the partnership his Roc Nation agency has with the NFL that makes it a co-producer of the Super Bowl halftime show. He also has experience with franchise ownership as a former part-owner of the Nets. The biggest strike against Bezos and Carter is that it is presumed that the NFL would prefer an individual buyer over a group.
It was made known, though, that Carter would not have interest in pursuing a minority stake in the franchise if Snyder remains the majority owner, which brings up an interesting point: Snyder has not divulged whether he is considering a full or partial sale of the team. In the recent past, Snyder attempted “to exercise his right of first refusal” to match offers made to former limited partners, effectively blocking the sale of partial ownership shares. The buyers who were blocked by Snyder, Clearlake Capital co-founders Behdad Eghbali and Jose E. Feliciano, reportedly went on to bid on the Broncos and could be considered candidates to buy the Commanders once again.
There is plenty that still needs to unfold before we see the conclusion of this story. Wrinkles need to be ironed out about how much of the franchise is for sale. Real bids need to be placed. The league will need to decide how serious it is about promoting diversity in ownership as well as how it feels about group ownership. We’ll likely see lots of similarities to the Broncos’ sale, and this sale could lay the groundwork for an eventual sale of the Seahawks. Plenty remains to be seen in the months to come.