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Magic Johnson joins Josh Harris’s bid to purchase Commanders

Earvin “Magic” Johnson speaks during a ceremony this month in Los Angeles. (Michael Owens/Getty Images)
3 min

NBA great Earvin “Magic” Johnson has joined the investment group led by Josh Harris that is attempting to purchase the Washington Commanders from owner Daniel Snyder, according to a spokesperson for Magic Johnson Enterprises.

The addition of Johnson to the Harris group comes as leading bidders attempt to reach a deal with Snyder in advance of the NFL’s annual league meeting that begins Sunday in Phoenix, according to four people with knowledge of the sales process. Some of them said they remain skeptical that an agreement will be reached in that timetable.

It was not clear how large of a stake in the team Johnson, 63, would own if Harris’s group is successful. Johnson previously was involved in Harris’s unsuccessful effort last year to purchase the Denver Broncos from the Pat Bowlen Trust. A group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton bought the Broncos for $4.65 billion, a record price for an NFL franchise. That deal was approved by the NFL’s team owners in August.

Commanders sale teeters amid uncertainty, renewed ire with NFL owners

Johnson also was reported last year to have been exploring the possibility of buying a stake in the Las Vegas Raiders. He has ownership stakes in MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and MLS’s Los Angeles FC.

The Harris group declined to comment through a spokesman. Johnson’s involvement was first reported by Sportico. Johnson declined to comment through the representative for Magic Johnson Enterprises.

Harris is the owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. His group previously added Potomac, Md., billionaire investor Mitchell Rales as an investor.

Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is another person who has been identified as being involved in the bidding, people familiar with the situation have said.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos hired New York-based investment firm Allen & Company to evaluate a possible bid for the Commanders, according to two people familiar with the situation. Bezos owns The Washington Post.

Harris-Rales partnership gives Daniel Snyder a strong non-Bezos option

The Commanders announced in November that Snyder and his wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, had hired Bank of America Securities to consider potential transactions for the franchise. The team has not said whether the Snyders intend to sell all or part of the franchise. Four people familiar with the process said in December they believe that a sale of the entire franchise is the most likely outcome.

There is growing conviction that Snyder will sell the team in the coming weeks or months, a person familiar with the process said in recent days, while expressing doubt the sale can be completed before the league meeting. Any sale would have to be approved by 24 of the 32 NFL team owners. The league meeting is scheduled to last at least through next Tuesday.

The sale deliberations are taking place while the NFL conducts its second investigation of Snyder and the team. This one is being overseen by attorney Mary Jo White.