A day after the Washington Commanders announced that owners Daniel and Tanya Snyder are considering selling the team, speculation about a potential buyer was widespread, and at least one prominent name was confirmed as having interest: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
“I don’t know if they will partner on it,” that person said, adding that each is “interested.”
Bezos owns The Washington Post. Amazon carries the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” package.
The news of Bezos’s interest was first reported by People.
Some in the league have said for several years that Bezos was interested in purchasing an NFL franchise at some point. But he apparently did not enter the bidding for the Denver Broncos, who were sold by the Pat Bowlen Trust in June for $4.65 billion to a group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton. NFL owners officially ratified the sale in August. It was the record sale price for an NFL franchise and it made Walton, with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $59.2 billion, the league’s richest owner.
Bezos has an estimated net worth of $113.2 billion, according to Forbes, which ranks him as the world’s fourth-richest individual.
The Commanders said Wednesday that Daniel and Tanya Snyder, his wife and the franchise’s co-CEO, had hired an investment bank to “consider potential transactions” related to the Commanders. The team did not specify whether the Snyders intend to sell all of the franchise or a minority share. A Commanders spokesperson said Wednesday, “We are exploring all options.”
The consideration of a sale comes with Snyder and the Commanders under investigation by the NFL, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the attorneys general of D.C. and Virginia. Investigators for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia have interviewed witnesses about allegations of financial impropriety involving the team, multiple people familiar with the situation said Wednesday. The team has denied committing any financial malfeasance.
Forbes estimated in August that the Commanders are worth $5.6 billion. On the day after the Commanders’ announcement, those in and around the NFL began to consider a list of potential buyers that could include some of the world’s wealthiest individuals.
Media entrepreneur Byron Allen, who previously bid on the Broncos, also is preparing a bid for the Commanders, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the early stage of the process. Allen, if successful, would become the NFL’s first Black principal team owner after the owners approved a resolution in March endorsing diversity in franchise ownership.
“[NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell and [New England Patriots owner] Bob Kraft had courted Byron Allen to take a good look at the Denver Broncos because they wanted to do everything they could to make history and have the first Black owner of an NFL team,” said the person, who made clear Allen would not join any groups as a minority investor. “The only thing that Byron Allen would be interested in is controlling ownership.”
The group being mentioned by industry analysts and other observers includes Bezos and Jay-Z; Tesla and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk; Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and his partner in bidding on the Washington Nationals, Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein; and Clearlake Capital co-founders Behdad Eghbali and Jose E. Feliciano, along with other former bidders for the Broncos.
“Owning an NFL team is the ultimate trophy,” Jack Evans, a former D.C. Council member, said in a phone interview Thursday. “More so than a baseball team, more so than anything else for those who have that kind of money. It limits, though, the field of who can buy it. The leagues want a person. They don’t want a group.”
Evans, as head of the council’s finance committee, orchestrated deals that brought the new convention center, Capital One Arena and Nationals Park to the city. He said he believes “there is no turning back” for Snyder and that he must sell the team. The price could be as high as $7 billion, Evans estimated.
Musk, who just completed a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, is the world’s wealthiest person, with a net worth estimated by Forbes at $200.7 billion. There has been no indication to this point that he is interested in purchasing the Commanders or any other NFL team. Neither he nor his representatives responded to requests to comment.
Leonsis, Rubenstein, Eghbali and Feliciano declined to comment through spokespeople. Eghbali and Feliciano reportedly bid on the Broncos after a previous effort to purchase a minority stake in the Commanders was rebuffed by Snyder.
The Post reported in November 2020 that Snyder’s former limited partners Dwight Schar, Fred Smith and Robert Rothman had received a $900 million offer from Eghbali, Feliciano and Feliciano’s wife, Kwanza Jones. The sale was blocked, people familiar with the situation said at the time, 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.
NFL owners ratified a resolution in March 2021 granting Snyder a $450 million debt waiver that enabled him to buy out, for $875 million, the ownership stakes of Schar, Smith and Rothman, which had totaled about 40 percent of the franchise.
Other NFL owners in the past have expressed a strong desire to have Bezos buy a team.
Amazon became the exclusive national carrier of the Thursday night package as part of the NFL’s new broadcasting deals announced last year. The Amazon deal reportedly is worth about $1 billion annually.
Bezos attended the opening Thursday night game of the season carried by Amazon — the Chiefs-Chargers game Sept. 15 in Kansas City, Mo. — and sat alongside Goodell for at least part of the game.
“I’m sure that eventually it would be in everyone’s best interests if someone that’s as community-oriented as him gets involved in the Seattle situation,” Kraft said in a 2019 interview with The Post.
The Seattle Seahawks are likely to be sold in the coming years by the trust of late owner Paul Allen, the former Microsoft co-founder.
Jay-Z, whose given name is Shawn Carter, formed a partnership with the NFL in 2019 to make his Roc Nation agency a co-producer of the Super Bowl halftime show. He is a former part-owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and has an estimated net worth of $1.3 billion, according to Forbes. Another person familiar with his thinking left open the possibility of a bid for the team but added that Jay-Z would not pursue a minority stake in the franchise if Snyder remains the majority owner.