John KimESPN staff writer5 minutes of reading
The NFL has scheduled a meeting next month where owners are expected to vote on the sale Washington Commanders to a group led by Josh Harris, a source confirmed to ESPN on Friday.
The NFL sent a memo to owners saying a meeting would take place on July 20 to discuss the sale of the Commanders from Dan and Tanya Snyder to the Harris Group for a record $6.05 billion.
A vote is likely to take place, based on expected unanimous approval by the Finance Committee, according to The Washington Post, which first reported the meeting. The vote could take place in Minneapolis, where the owners met at the end of May.
The committee has not yet recommended approval, but the fact that an extraordinary meeting was held indicates the direction the sale is headed. Typically, the owners follow the committee’s recommendation. For the sale to be approved, 24 of the 32 owners must vote in favor.
Last year, for example, the committee recommended unanimous approval on July 27 regarding the sale of the Denver Broncos to a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton. The owners voted their approval on August 9.
There has been strong motivation to get the Commanders deal done, according to multiple sources, and move on from Snyders before the season begins. That’s why, despite concerns about the structure of the Harris offer at various times, many remained optimistic that the deal would go through. Multiple sources said the Snyders were also eager to finish the process.
Washington opens training camp on July 26.
On June 7, the Finance Committee met with Harris for 2½ hours in New York City. Afterward, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, one of eight members on the committee, expressed optimism to ESPN about the direction of Harris’ bid. At the owners’ meetings last month, Irsay had been adamant that work needed to be done to bring the offer into compliance with NFL guidelines.
“I’m hopeful because of their inspired aspect and their enthusiasm and their track record,” Irsay said after meeting with Harris. “We’re just trying to work through the final details. And I’m hoping we’ll be able to. I would imagine something in mid-to-late July would be the earliest we’d call a league meeting .” Shortly after that meeting, the NFL informed teams that a possible vote would take place on either July 20 or August 8.
Harris’ group includes Washington, D.C. billionaire Mitchell Rales as well as NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson among its 20 limited partners — all of whom had to be vetted by the committee, increasing the length of time in recommending their approval.
The committee has been working with Harris to get his bid in line with NFL guidelines. Irsay said several times over the past two months that there were concerns about the amount of debt Harris was carrying and how much equity was in his offer.
According to NFL guidelines, a new owner cannot take on more than $1.1 billion in debt and must put down 30% of the offer. Irsay also said Harris and Rales wanted the league to work with them “especially from a fiscal standpoint.”
“They know it can’t be smoke and mirrors,” Irsay told ESPN in early June after the committee met with Harris. “It’s a complicated deal.”
But Irsay, as well as others in the league, including commissioner Roger Goodell, said they would not change the guidelines to accommodate Harris.
Harris entered into a signed exclusive agreement with co-owners Dan and Tanya Snyder on May 12, beating Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos’ $6 billion bid.
The Snyders shocked the NFL by putting the Commanders up for sale Nov. 2 — less than two weeks after releasing a statement proclaiming they would never sell the team. The NFL had been investigating the work culture under Snyder for nearly a year before fining the franchise $10 million in July 2021.
But the House Committee on Oversight and Reform began its own investigation into Snyder in October 2021, an investigation that didn’t end until Republicans took control last fall. Attorneys general in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia have also investigated alleged financial impropriety by the commanders from Snyder’s reign before 2020.
Attorney Mary Jo White also continues to investigate allegations against Snyder. A league source said the results of that report could be released before the final vote.
Once approved, Harris would be the franchise’s fifth owner. George Preston Marshall owned the team from 1932 – when it was located in Boston – until his death in 1969; Edward Bennett Williams was the primary owner from 1970 to 1974, when Jack Kent Cooke became the majority owner. Snyder bought the team in 1999 for $800 million, two years after Cooke’s death.
The team went 164-220-2 under Snyder. Washington hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2005 season and hasn’t won 11 or more games in the regular season since 1991. From 1971 to ’92, the franchise played in five Super Bowls, winning three. They compiled an 18–10 playoff record during that stretch.