A group led by Josh Harris that includes Magic Johnson has agreed to buy the NFL’s Washington Commanders from long-time owner Dan Snyder and his family.
The sides announced the deal in a joint statement Friday, roughly a month after they reached an agreement in principle on the sale for a record $6.05 billion.
The deal is the largest for a North American professional sports franchise, surpassing the $4.55 billion Walmart heir Robert Walton paid for the Denver Broncos last year. It is still pending approval of three-quarters of owners and other customary closing conditions.
“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement for the sale of the Commanders franchise with Josh Harris, an area native, and his impressive group of partners,” Snyder and his wife, Tanya, said in the statement. “We look forward to the prompt completion of this transaction and to rooting for Josh and the team in the coming years.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said league staff and its finance committee will review details of the proposed transaction. Owners meet later this month in Minnesota, but they are only expected to get an update on the situation then, with a formal vote expected in the coming months.
Snyder has owned the team since 1999, when he bought his favourite boyhood team for $750 million, and despite mounting criticism repeatedly said he’d never sell. That changed after multiple investigations by the league and Congress into Washington’s workplace misconduct and potential financial improprieties. The congressional investigation found Snyder played a role in a toxic culture.
Harris’ group includes Washington-area billionaire Mitchell Rales, the basketball Hall of Famer Johnson and David Blitzer, among others. Harris and Blitzer have owned the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers since 2011 and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils since 2013.
“I could not be more excited to be a partner in the proposed new ownership group for the Washington Commanders,” Johnson tweeted. “Josh Harris has assembled an amazing group who share a commitment to not only doing great things on the field but to making a real impact in the (Washington-area) community. I’m so excited to get to work on executing our vision for the Commanders and our loyal fan base.”
Harris grew up in the Washington suburb of Chevy Chase, Maryland. He said he got to experience the excitement of the team winning three Super Bowls and establishing a long-term culture of success.
“We look forward to the formal approval of our ownership by the NFL in the months ahead and to having the honour to serve as responsible and accountable stewards of the Commanders franchise moving forward,” Harris said. “We look forward to running a world-class organization and making significant investments on and off the field to achieve excellence and have a lasting and positive impact on the community.”
The new owners’ first major task for the long-term future of the organization is a new stadium to replace FedEx Field, the rushed-to-completion home of the team since 1997 in Landover, Maryland, that has not aged well. Virginia abandoned a stadium bill last year amid a number of off-field controversies swirling around the team, though possibilities exist to build there, in Maryland or the District of Columbia at the site of the team’s former home, RFK Stadium.
Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, who led Washington to its three Super Bowl titles, said he has gotten to know Harris and his leadership team and fully supports the ownership group.
“The NFL has grown a great deal since my time as a coach in this league, but what hasn’t changed is my belief that with great leadership from the top, the drive to win on the field and a commitment to culture – championship teams are created,” Gibbs said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. “Josh and his team share these values and I am committed to doing what I can to reconnect this great franchise to the community, fan base and alumni.”