Ever since the Washington Commanders confirmed reports last November that deeply unpopular, much-investigated owner Dan Snyder was exploring a sale of the team, local fans have been akin to Linus from “Peanuts” in the pumpkin patch: hoping, praying, and above all, waiting for a change.
That wait may almost be over. According to a Tuesday report from NBC Sports Washington, multiple sources claim that the Commanders’ sale “will be over soon,” with a new owner announced as quickly as March.
Who’s in line to buy the team? And how much might they pay? Answers to both questions remain murky.
Front Office Sports reported Sunday that a half-dozen bidders have submitted offers of up to $6.3 billion for the Commanders, while Forbes previously reported that Snyder has received bids “well north” of $7 billion for the team and related real estate assets.
As for potential owners, here’s a quick breakdown of the people who have been mentioned as likely bidders:
The Amazon founder calls football his favorite sport and has extensive ties to the DC area. Amazon already does business with the National Football League via its “Thursday Night Football” package, and Bezos reportedly has interest in the Commanders. He is also staggeringly, preposterously, pharaonically rich, even by the standards of other rich guys, which means he could outbid anyone else who wants the team.
All of this makes Bezos the presumptive front-runner. Only there’s a catch—actually, there are quite a few. First, his ownership of the Washington Post could make Snyder less likely to sell to Bezos and/or more likely to charge an exorbitant premium for an already pricey asset: Snyder reportedly detests the Post, likely because the paper has done some of the deepest and hardest-hitting investigative reporting on his allegedly toxic reign. Second, the Amazon-NFL broadcast deal could create a messy legal entanglements and conflicts of interest. Third, NFL owners are prideful (read: egotistical) bunch, a group of dudes who are accustomed to wielding power and commanding deference from others—would they be psychologically comfortable opening their club to a man who can pretty much afford to buy and sell all of them?
Finally, there’s the open question of how much Bezos specifically wants the Commanders. Front Office Sports and NBC Sports Washington both report that Bezos has yet to submit an official bid for the team. This could be because he didn’t want to provoke an early bidding war, but it also could indicate that Bezos would prefer to purchase the Seattle Seahawks if and when that franchise—located in Amazon’s home city—is eventually put up for sale by the trust of late owner Paul Allen, who died in 2018.
A former comedian who appeared on the Tonight Show in the 1980s, worked as a television producer, founded a media company, and now owns a collection of local TV stations as well as the Weather Channel, Allen reportedly was encouraged in 2019 by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft to explore purchasing a team. Last year, he was a bidder for the Denver Broncos, which ultimately was sold to members of the Walmart fortune Walton family for $4.65 billion.
Following that sale, Allen joked that “when you lose to the richest family in the world, it’s not a bad day in the office.” He also said that while his bidding group “didn’t get this one,” he was “highly confident we’ll get the next one.” If that happens with the Commanders, Allen would become the first Black majority owner in league history.
Seen by some observers as the most likely non-Bezos candidate to land the Commanders, Harris is the co-founder of Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm, and already owns the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers and the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils. He’s also a general partner in the English Premier League soccer club Crystal Palace, grew up in Chevy Chase, and attended the Field School.
Like Allen, Harris was a bidder for the Broncos and reportedly would have paid $5 billion for the team—but didn’t want to get into a bidding war with the Waltons beyond that number, instead keeping his powder dry to pursue the next NFL opportunity.
Behdad Eghbali and Jose E. Feliciano
The co-founders of Clearlake Capital, a private equity firm, Eghbali and Feliciano unsuccessfully bid on the Broncos and previously attempted to buy a minority stake in the Commanders. Their firm also was the primary financial backer of the ownership group that bought the EPL team Chelsea for $3.2 billion after Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich put it up for sale following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Like Allen, they would help diversify the NFL’s ownership pool if they landed the Commanders: Eghbali was born in Iran and moved to the United States at age 10, while Feliciano was born and raised in Puerto Rico.
Todd L. Boehly
A graduate of Landon School in Bethesda, Boehly is the CEO of Eldridge Industries, an investment firm, and was the leader of the bid for Chelsea that was funded by Clearlake. He’s also a part-owner of three Los Angeles-based professional sports teams: Major League Baseball’s Dodgers, the NBA’s Lakers, and the WNBA’s Sparks.
Boehly’s interest in the Commanders—and the extent of that interest—is hard to gauge. ABC7 reported days ago that Bohley is making a “very strong push” to buy his “hometown team,” while NBC Sports Washington subsequently claimed that he has pulled out of the bidding process. The Post reports that it is also unclear if Boehly, Eghbali, and Feliciano have joined forces for a Commanders bid or have been pursuing the team separately. Rich guys: always so secretive when it comes to deals!
The New York Post reports that the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Penguins owner could bid on the Commanders, perhaps using money from the expected sale of the EPL’s Liverpool FC, which could net Henry’s Fenway Sports Group as much as $3 billion.
David Rubenstein and Ted Leonsis
Rubenstein, the co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, and Leonsis, owner of the Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics, are currently bidding for the Nationals. Last week, the Post reported that the Lerner family, which owns that team, is less likely to sell it entirely than to take on a minority investor.
If that happens, will Rubenstien and Leonsis be content to buy into the Nats in a non-controlling way? And potentially wait until the Lerners are willing to sell their majority stake? Or might they turn their sights toward a bigger prize? Asked last year at a public event at the National Portrait Gallery about bidding on either the Commanders or Nationals, Rubenstein was cagey: “There’s a lot of great teams that are going to be for sale. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see. You should ask some of the other people here. I think Jeff Bezos — is he coming? I don’t know. But ask him.”
Larry Ellison and Michael Dell
While neither tech mogul has been linked to the Commanders, both have been floated in reports as possible dark horse candidates—mostly because they’re two of the world’s richest people, and have been rumored to have previous interest in owning a NFL team.
Jay-Z, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Durant
None of the above can afford to buy the Commanders outright—Jay-Z comes the closest, and he’s not the least bit close. Still, all have been mentioned as potential members of the groups bidding for the team, and all would add some much needed sizzle to an owner’s box that used to be the talk of the town.