NFL finance committee backs Josh Harris’ deal to buy Commanders

The NFL’s finance committee met Monday offsite and informally voted to recommend approval of Josh Harris’ $6.05 billion deal to buy the Washington Commanders from Daniel Snyder, according to two people familiar with the deliberations.

Lawyers for the NFL and Snyder also reached an agreement that resolves remaining legal issues that had threatened to complicate the approval and closing of the deal, these people said. That clears the way for NFL team owners to vote to ratify the record sale during a meeting scheduled for Thursday in Minneapolis.

Some of the eight owners on the finance committee did not attend Monday’s meeting, and the committee did not take a formal vote to recommend approval of the sale, said one of the people with knowledge of the deliberations. But the owners who attended took what this person described as a “straw poll” in which they unanimously approved the deal.

The finance committee’s official vote to recommend approval of the sale to the other owners is expected to come during its meeting Thursday at a Minneapolis hotel, just before the full owners’ meeting. The owners generally follow the committee’s recommendation. The sale must be approved by at least 24 of the 32 owners.

“This is a good outcome,” said one of the people familiar with Monday’s deliberations, predicting the sale will receive unanimous support from the finance committee and owners.

Former Commanders boss Jason Friedman is suing the team for defamation

The sale is expected to be completed already on Friday. According to one of the people with knowledge of the deliberations, the results of the NFL’s investigation into Snyder and the captains, conducted by attorney Mary Jo White, could be released soon after. Snyder recently spoke with White for her investigation, two people with knowledge of that conversation said.

Harris’ group will take control of the commanders at the opening of training camp next week. The final hurdle to approving and closing the deal emerged last week with complications arising from legal issues that included indemnification tied to former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s lawsuit against the league. A person familiar with the deliberations said last week that the issues were significant and could have delayed the sale if not resolved.

How those issues were resolved was not immediately clear Monday night, but a person familiar with the deliberations said the league and Snyder were satisfied with the outcome. The NFL did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the person familiar with the deliberations, Snyder and his family had been unwilling to indemnify the league and the other NFL owners for liability related to the Gruden case. Snyder’s lawyers argued that Snyder should not be liable for any legal liability stemming from the actions of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and top league attorney Jeff Pash, this person said last week. Snyder’s sister, Michele, a co-owner of Commanders, had been unwilling to agree to indemnify the other owners from legal liability in the Gruden case, according to this person.

The team’s view had been that all of the Commanders’ owners “agreed to indemnify the league for any damages that may result from the actions of the owners and the team,” a person familiar with communications between the Commanders and the NFL said last week. However, such an agreement would not necessarily apply to Goodell and Pash’s actions.

Gruden resigned from the Raiders in October 2021 after the Wall Street Journal and New York Times published emails sent to the team account of Bruce Allen, Washington’s former team president, in which Gruden used racist, homophobic and misogynistic language over approximately seven years of correspondence. while working for ESPN. Gruden filed a lawsuit against the NFL in 2021, accusing the league and Goodell of using the leaked emails to “publicly sabotage” his career.

The NFL has denied leaking the emails, which were collected as part of an earlier investigation into Washington’s workplace by attorney Beth Wilkinson. According to the final report issued in December by the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability (then called the House Committee on Oversight and Reform) on its Democratic-led investigation into the team’s workplace, Allen learned in October 2021 that the emails were leaked to the Journal. The report said that when Allen called Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special counsel for investigations, to complain, “she indicated that the team was responsible for the leak, saying, ‘We didn’t do it in the league office. It came out of their side .’ “

Goodell reiterated to the owners on Monday that he and the league office were not responsible for the leaking of the emails, according to a person familiar with the conversations.

Daniel Snyder’s wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, told other NFL owners at a league meeting in October 2021 that neither she nor her husband were responsible for the leaked emails, multiple people present at that meeting said.

Harris, a private equity investor who owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, reached an unsigned, non-exclusive deal with Daniel Snyder for the Commanders in April and then signed an exclusive deal on May 12. The finance committee initially had concerns about the structure of Harris’ deal to buy Commanders from Snyder. But Harris addressed those concerns by agreeing to make adjustments to the agreement.

Harris and Mitchell Rales, a top investor in his group, met with the finance committee at the NFL’s New York offices for 2½ hours on June 7. A person familiar with the deliberations said afterward that the trade was expected to be approved “unless something crazy” happens.” Two days later, the NFL notified owners to be available to meet on July 20 or August 8, and later scheduled the meeting for July 20.

The NFL plans to meet on July 20 for owners to vote on Commander’s sale

The sale price would be a record for an NFL franchise, surpassing the $4.65 billion that a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton paid last year to buy the Denver Broncos from the Pat Bowlen Trust. The league also scheduled a special league meeting for the owners to ratify the Broncos sale. The owners took that vote last August at the same hotel where they will meet on Thursday.

The Harris Group declined to comment Monday through a spokesman.

White is leading the NFL’s second investigation into Snyder and his franchise. Snyder had declined to be interviewed by White, three people with direct knowledge of the league’s inner workings said in March. White was expected to make at least one more attempt before concluding her investigation, one of these people said.

It was not clear Monday how cooperative Snyder was in answering investigators’ questions during his meeting with White’s team, which is believed to have taken place this month.

The Washington Post reported in February that Snyder sought to have the NFL keep the results of White’s investigation confidential. ESPN reported in May that Snyder and his lawyers lobbied the NFL to limit the release of White’s report. The commanders rejected this report. Goodell has said the league will make White’s findings public even if Snyder sells the team.

White’s findings could lead to Goodell imposing a fine, a person familiar with the inner workings of the NFL said. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (Md.), the House Oversight Committee’s ranking Democrat, urged the NFL in a letter to Goodell last month to honor its promise to release the results of White’s investigation and impose any appropriate discipline.

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