NFL’s Washington Commanders Sale Facing New Hurdles

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Members of the NFL’s finance committee raised concerns Wednesday about Josh Harris’s tentative $6.05 billion deal to purchase the Washington Commanders from owner Daniel Snyder. That is slowing momentum for the potential sale ratification vote of the league’s team owners later this month, reads a report in The Washington Post.

The report makes clear that the belief remains that the Harris bid will eventually go through, and he will become the new owner of the Commanders. But the committee has found the finances of the deal to be complicated, and it will take them more time to fully investigate.

The league was expected to make approving the sale of the Commanders one of the top agenda items when the owners begin their spring meetings on May 22. But that time line is now in doubt.

“Everyone wants it to get done,” said one of the sources for the Post’s report. “I’m not saying it can’t get done. I don’t know. We’ll have to see.”

Exploding Costs Changing the NFL’s Rules

The NFL allows owners to borrow as much as $1.1 billion against the cost of their franchise, which Josh Harris has proposed in his plan. The finances get a little stickier because he also proposes to borrow against the other sports franchises he owns, the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA, the New Jersey Devils of the NHL, and Crystal Palace FC of the English Premier League.

The concern of the finance committee is that Harris would be the controlling partner of the Commanders (with 17 limited partners), and what would happen if he defaulted on that debt.

When David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers in 2018 for $2.275 billion, he had all the money up front. That was also the case last year, when the group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton purchased the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion.

But as costs rise, far fewer potential owners can do what Tepper and Walton did. More will need to go the route of Harris and dance around the NFL’s own debt rules. And in this case, because the NFL is so anxious to be done with the scandal-plagued Daniel Snyder-era in Washington, they, too, may be more willing to stretch their rules.

The troubling Snyder era also adds another wrinkle to the potential sale. He has asked the NFL for indemnification from potential lawsuits or fines that may still occur after the sale goes through. He is currently being investigated by the NFL and federal prosecutors for allegations that he hid shared revenue from the other 31 teams and made unwanted advances toward a female employee.

Harris Group Still Optimistic

The bid from Harris does offer some indemnification to Snyder. However, that would only be between those two parties, and it would not include the NFL. That is something that Snyder may still balk at, which is in line with another point made by the Post. The major issues in finalizing the sale remain between the NFL and Snyder, and not with the NFL and Harris.

“It’s dragging through the NFL because they’ve never had to evaluate this type of bid,” said a person close to Harris. “The NFL’s choice is getting Dan out (versus) working through Josh’s complexity. I think they’ll find a way.”

If the league does not put the Harris bid to a vote when they meet at the end of May, they could call a special meeting of the owners to address the issue later in the summer. Otherwise, they are not scheduled to meet again until October.

The NFL requires a franchise sale to be ratified by at least 24 of the league’s 32 owners.

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