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NFL approves Daniel Snyder’s $875 million buyout of Washington co-owners

Daniel Snyder and his family could take full control of ownership of the Washington Football Team after Snyder's debt waiver received final approval from NFL owners. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Daniel Snyder’s purchase of his Washington Football Team co-owners’ shares was approved by his fellow NFL team owners Wednesday, putting control of the team entirely with him and his family members.

Owners ratified a resolution granting Snyder a $450 million debt waiver and approving his $875 million buyout of the ownership stakes of Dwight Schar, Fred Smith and Robert Rothman, which total about 40 percent of the franchise.

The owners’ approval of the resolution was confirmed by the NFL through a spokesman. According to a person familiar with the proceedings, the vote was unanimous.

Documents presented during the owners’ virtual meeting indicated that the $875 million sale is expected to close this week and will terminate all disputes among Snyder and his co-owners, according to a person familiar with the situation. That would end a contentious dispute between Snyder and his longtime business partners that produced a grievance, an NFL arbitration process and litigation.

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In November, The Washington Post reported that Snyder’s limited partners had received a $900 million offer from Behdad Eghbali and José Feliciano, the billionaire co-founders of Clearlake Capital, and Feliciano’s wife, Kwanza Jones.

The sale was blocked, people familiar with the situation said then, because Snyder was attempting to exercise his right of first refusal by matching the offers made to Smith and Rothman but not the offer made to Schar. That resulted in a dispute over whether Snyder was entitled to exercise such rights in a selective manner.

Instead, Snyder will tighten his control over the franchise that he purchased from the Jack Kent Cooke estate in 1999, along with former co-investors Mortimer Zuckerman and Fred Drasner. According to court documents, Snyder currently owns 40.459 percent of the team. His sister, Michele, owns 12.552 percent and his mother, Arlette, owns 6.489 percent.

The ownership issue is separate from an ongoing NFL-sponsored investigation, led by attorney Beth Wilkinson, into allegations of sexual harassment in the team’s workplace, a league spokesman said last week. In response to Wednesday’s action, attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent 40 former team employees who reported a sexually hostile workplace under Snyder’s ownership, sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell objecting to the decision to grant the debt waiver.

They wrote that in doing so before Wilkinson has submitted her report of a months-long investigation into the team’s workplace, the league has “facilitated an arrangement that leaves Mr. Snyder in a stronger ownership position than before the full extent of this scandal was known.”

The lawyers reiterated their interest in seeing the NFL publicly release Wilkinson’s report and take action in response, but they added that Wednesday’s action raised concern that Goodell’s previous characterization of the team’s conduct as “abhorrent” was designed to simply appease those who reported sexual harassment and workplace abuse.

“It now appears that not only has Mr. Snyder survived this #MeToo debacle unscathed,” the lawyers wrote, “but he has actually flourished with the assistance of the National Football League.”

Wednesday’s final approval came on the second day of a two-day meeting of the owners. On Tuesday, they ratified a 17-game regular season and three-game preseason beginning in the 2021 season.

The NFL told teams in a memo Wednesday to expect to conduct team meetings virtually at the outset of their offseason programs for players, scheduled to begin April 19. But the league’s memo also told teams to expect in-person workouts at some point this offseason, saying: "[W]e do not anticipate a duplication of last season’s virtual workout program.”

Teams’ offseason programs were conducted entirely virtually last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The NFL Players Association has pushed for that to continue this year.

“Our process is to follow the science on what is safest for our guys, and many of the changes this past year — like no in-person offseason workouts/practices, the extended acclimation period before training camp and no preseason games — gave us a year of data that demonstrates maintaining some of these changes long-term is in the best interest of the game,” Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter, the NFLPA president, wrote Wednesday on the union’s website.

Union leaders stressed that the pandemic isn’t over and said they don’t want to see the NFL abandon a cautious approach — or last season’s strict protocols — too soon.

“We’re continuing to bargain about [the] offseason, and those conversations with the league are continuing,” DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA’s executive director, said in a video news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Smith said injury data “overwhelmingly shows that perhaps the most dangerous place to be if you’re a veteran player” is in a team’s offseason program.

After Goodell said Tuesday that the league plans to “have full stadiums in the upcoming season,” Smith said Wednesday: “I hope that stadiums are full as well in September. But we’re in March.”

The NFL’s memo to teams Wednesday also said players and teams will be incentivized to be vaccinated.

“It is also anticipated that clubs that achieve a certain rate of vaccination among its tiered staff and players may be permitted to relax restrictions that apply to meetings, mealtime and use of locker rooms,” the league’s memo said.

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The latest: 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 Commanders owner Daniel Snyder.

Exclusive: An employee of Washington’s NFL team accused 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.

Civil suits settled: Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has reached settlement agreements in 20 of the 24 active civil lawsuits filed against him by women who accused him of sexual misconduct, the attorney for the women announced.

Jerry Brewer: “The Browns were prepared for initial turbulence, but they assumed they were getting Watson at the end of his troubles. Now his disgrace is their disaster.”

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