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Daniel Snyder to receive NFL debt waiver to buy out Washington Football Team partners

Daniel Snyder has been granted a debt waiver to buy out his limited partners. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

This story has been updated.

The NFL finance committee approved a debt waiver that would enable Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder to buy out his three limited partners, an agreement that would resolve an increasingly contentious dispute that produced a grievance and NFL arbitration procedure and spilled into courtrooms. It would also serve as further confirmation that the league has no intention of forcing Snyder to relinquish his control.

A league spokesman confirmed that the owners on the finance committee, which reviews potential ownership transactions, recommended ratification of a waiver that would enable Snyder to take on an additional $450 million in debt. The granting of the waiver is subject to final approval of all 32 franchise owners during their remote meeting scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday. Ratification requires the vote of at least 24 of the 32 owners.

Snyder plans to pay approximately $875 million to purchase the shares held by Dwight Schar, Fred Smith and Robert Rothman, according to a person familiar with the proposed transaction. The deal would put ownership of the team entirely in the hands of Snyder and family members.

Schar, Smith and Rothman own about 40 percent of the team. The Washington Post reported in November that a group of investors from California had offered $900 million for their shares. The potential buyers were Behdad Eghbali and José Feliciano — the billionaire co-founders of Clearlake Capital, a private equity firm based in Santa Monica — and Feliciano’s wife, Kwanza Jones, a singer, songwriter and philanthropist who grew up in the Washington area.

Snyder initially attempted to exercise a right of first refusal to match the offers made to Smith and Rothman but not the offer made to Schar. That led to a dispute over whether Snyder could exercise that right in such a selective manner.

The debt waiver and pending buyouts, first reported by the Go Long newsletter and the New York Times, do not impact the NFL’s ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual harassment in the team’s workplace, which is being led by attorney Beth Wilkinson. Those are “two separate matters,” and the review of those claims is ongoing, league spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

On Thursday, the president of the Time’s Up Foundation, which supports safer and more equitable working conditions for women, called on the NFL to put off any measure that would enable Snyder to expand his control of the team until after Wilkinson’s findings have been publicly aired. To do otherwise, wrote Tina Tchen in a statement, would be “a grave injustice” to those who came forward at personal peril to tell their stories to Wilkinson.

“No deal should happen until the full report of the investigation into the WFT is released to the public,” wrote Tchen, a lawyer and former chief of staff to former first lady Michelle Obama. “The NFL, including all of the owners who will be voting to give Snyder special treatment, cannot turn a blind eye to those who had the courage to come forward to detail decades of pervasive harassment and abuse. There cannot be accountability without transparency.”

The NFL has not committed to making Wilkinson’s findings public.

There remains little to no inclination among fellow owners and the league’s leadership to attempt to force Snyder to sell the franchise based upon the allegations, a person familiar with the inner workings of the NFL and the owners said in recent weeks. That is consistent with the initial indications in July, after the allegations first were reported by The Post. Multiple people with knowledge of the matter said then the league would consider fining the team but the other owners and NFL were not expected to take formal steps to compel Snyder to sell.

The NFL is empowered to discipline a team, its owner or employees under its personal conduct policy. League bylaws give the NFL and fellow owners the right to attempt to force the sale of a team if an owner is deemed to have engaged in conduct detrimental to the welfare of the league. Instead, Snyder is poised to consolidate his ownership of the franchise that he purchased from the Jack Kent Cooke estate in 1999.

Nothing precludes Snyder from turning around and selling a minority stake in the franchise to another party to help pay off the $450 million loan he’ll need to buy out Rothman, Smith and Schar. By buying out his three longtime business partners himself, Snyder can control who his next partners, if any, would be.

Selling part of the team also would help Snyder raise money to fund the new stadium he long has envisioned once the team’s obligation to play at FedEx Field expires in 2027.

No new NFL stadium since 2015 has cost less than $1.1 billion — with SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, topping all with an estimated $5.5 billion price tag that included ancillary commercial development. The Las Vegas Raiders’ new stadium cost an estimated $1.9 billion when it opened in 2020. The Minnesota Vikings’ new home cost $1.1 billion in 2016; the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium cost $1.5 billion.

At stake is the ownership of not merely a storied NFL franchise but an asset valued at $3.5 billion — at a time when all NFL teams are projected to take a significant leap in value in light of the league’s recently completed 11-year TV and streaming deals that are worth more than $110 billion and run through the 2033 season. NFL teams share equally in revenue from the leaguewide broadcast deals.

While 40 percent of an asset valued at $3.5 billion equates to $1.4 billion, shares for a minority stake in NFL franchises are worth less, according to industry experts, because they carry little to no authority in the team’s operations.

Rothman, Smith and Schar were Snyder’s second set of co-owners, buying their respective stakes in the team in 2003. Snyder’s limited partners informed him via a May 14 letter that they had retained investment banker John Moag to handle the sale of their collective shares.

Soon after informing Snyder of their plan to divest, the minority owners informed a Snyder adviser, via their lawyer, that Snyder could avoid “a lengthy and expensive due diligence process” by outside accountants if he bought the co-owners’ shares himself. Rather than do so at the time, Snyder threw the minority owners off the team’s board sometime in June, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, and denied them access to its financial statements. That put into motion closed-door NFL proceedings and adversarial actions in federal court.

After being dismissed from the team’s board, the co-owners in June filed a formal grievance against Snyder with the NFL, as is standard procedure under the league’s bylaws for resolving major conflicts, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appointed an arbitrator to settle the dispute.

In August, Snyder filed a $10 million defamation suit against an online media company based in India and followed with legal proceedings in five U.S. states aimed at establishing a link between the allegedly defamatory rumors the Indian website published and Schar, whom Snyder believed had planted the stories in hopes of forcing him to sell.

After a Post report July 16 detailed claims of sexual harassment and verbal abuse from more than a dozen female former employees of the team, Snyder retained Wilkinson to investigate the workplace culture. Following a subsequent Post report that detailed more widespread harassment and the creation of a lewd video compiled of outtakes from a cheerleaders’ calendar shoot, allegedly for Snyder and fellow executives, the NFL announced Aug. 31 it was assuming oversight of the Wilkinson investigation.

Unwilling to wait for the months-long NFL arbitration process to settle the ownership dispute, the co-owners sued Snyder in U.S. District Court in Maryland in November, asking a federal judge to force Snyder to let the sale proceed. The judge ultimately ruled the ownership dispute rightfully belonged in NFL arbitration rather than federal court.

Documents in that proceeding spelled out the precise ownership breakdown of the team. Snyder, the principal owner, owns 40.459 percent. His sister, Michele, owns 12.552 percent and his mother, Arlette, owns 6.489 percent.

What to read about the Washington Commanders

Exclusive: An employee of Washington’s NFL team accused Commanders owner Daniel Snyder of asking for sex, groping her and attempting to remove her clothes, according to legal correspondence obtained by The Post. A team investigation concluded the woman was lying in an attempt to extort Snyder.

Capitol Hill: Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, announced that the committee intends to issue a subpoena to compel the testimony of Snyder.

Kevin B. Blackistone: If NFL players care about social justice, why haven’t they rebuked the Commanders’ defensive coordinator?

Penalized: The NFL fined Commanders head coach Ron Rivera $100,000 and docked the team two OTA practices in 2023 for excessive hitting during their offseason program this year, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.