The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Josh Harris, Steve Apostolopoulos groups submit formal bids on Commanders

Josh Harris is leading a group attempting to purchase the Commanders from Daniel Snyder. (Matt Rourke/AP)
7 min

PHOENIX — A group led by Josh Harris and another led by Steve Apostolopoulos submitted formal bids to purchase the Washington Commanders from Daniel Snyder, according to people with direct knowledge of the sale process.

Harris’s bidding group includes Potomac billionaire businessman and philanthropist Mitchell Rales and Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson as investors. The group was known to have been involved in the bidding, and the process has reached the point at which the Harris group has made its bid formal.

It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether other prospective buyers have submitted formal bids. NFL team owners completed the three-day annual league meeting Tuesday at a resort here. Tanya Snyder, Daniel Snyder’s wife and the team’s co-CEO, represented the Commanders at the meeting, along with team president Jason Wright, Coach Ron Rivera and others.

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

The formal bid by Harris’s group was confirmed by three people with direct knowledge of the sale process. One of them said the bid is worth about $6 billion, which is the figure that Daniel Snyder has been thought to be seeking for the team.

Harris’s group declined to comment through a spokesman. He is the owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. He grew up in Chevy Chase and attended the Field School in Northwest Washington. Harris was the co-founder of Apollo Global Management and is a general partner of the English Premier League’s Crystal Palace. He is a limited partner with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and has an estimated net worth of $5.8 billion, according to Forbes.

Apostolopoulos is the managing partner of Triple Group of Companies, a Toronto-based commercial real estate firm. He also is the founder of Six Ventures, a private equity fund. His formal bid was confirmed by two people with direct knowledge of the sale process. The amount of his bid could not be confirmed. A person familiar with the NFL’s inner workings called Apostolopoulos a “legitimate” contender to buy the team.

The Commanders declined to comment through a spokesperson.

“I would say you may know as much as the league knows,” Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, a member of the NFL’s finance committee, said Tuesday. “And that’s very rarely the case. I think the league is definitely supportive of the process. … Whenever the final bidder — the selected bidder — is brought into the room, the league has a lot of work to do, which they have not started to do. And that has to be done.”

Blank said the league and other owners have had “very minimal communication” with Daniel Snyder about the sale.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, at the conclusion of the meeting Tuesday, said he was not familiar with the terms of the bids and had no expectation about when a potential sale might be completed.

“The briefing was just, ‘When we get something, we’ll let you know,’ ” Jones said.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the owners were updated “briefly” on the Commanders’ sale process and on attorney Mary Jo White’s investigation of Snyder and the team.

“They’re both ongoing processes,” Goodell said. “The Washington Commanders are obviously the one conducting the process of the sale. When there’s a transaction, they will notify us and we will proceed on that one.”

Harris tried to buy the Denver Broncos last year from the Pat Bowlen Trust. A group led by Walmart heir Rob Walton purchased the Broncos for $4.65 billion, the record sale price for an NFL franchise. Forbes estimated the value of the Commanders last year at $5.6 billion.

The addition of Rales, the co-founder of the Danaher Corporation, positioned the Harris group as an attractive alternative for Snyder if he did not want to sell the team to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Rales has deep local ties, and Forbes estimates his net worth at $5.6 billion.

Other potential buyers of the team include Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, and Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets.

At least three-fourths of the team owners would have to approve a sale. The owners on the league’s finance committee, which would vet any deal on a sale, met Sunday.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said Monday that he’s hopeful Daniel Snyder will sell the Commanders on terms that are “normal and acceptable,” without unusual demands for legal indemnification, so that the other owners do not need to revisit consideration of voting to remove Snyder from the NFL.

Jim Irsay hopes Daniel Snyder will proceed with ‘normal’ sale of Commanders

Irsay left open the possibility of the process continuing into the fall but said the owners could have clarity by their next scheduled meeting in May in Minneapolis. For the Broncos sale, the deal was struck in June, and the owners ratified it in August.

“I think once the league office brings it to us, they’ve done all the security background checks,” Irsay said Monday. “They’ve done everything. You have an idea who it is. And so I think once it’s brought to [a] vote, it’s not going to take too long to deal with that aspect. … But I think it takes them definitely a few weeks, if not a month or so, to do their work. And then once it’s presented to us, I think it happens pretty quickly because it comes usually with recommendations or what the problem is for us to discuss. So I don’t know if that can happen by May. But it’s possible, hopefully.”

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Monday he believes “something is close to happening” on the sale of the Commanders but quickly added: “I don’t know that for sure. We’ll wait and see what happens.”

Snyder was preventing Bezos, estimated by Forbes as the world’s third-wealthiest person, from moving forward in the bidding, a person familiar with the sale process said last month, citing Snyder’s displeasure with The Post’s coverage of him and the team. It has not been clear whether that represented a negotiating tactic. Bezos has been working with a New York investment firm, Allen & Company, to evaluate a prospective bid.

The sale deliberations are occurring as White conducts the NFL’s second investigation of Snyder and the team. Snyder has declined to be interviewed by White, according to three people with direct knowledge of the league’s inner workings. White is expected to make at least one more attempt to interview him.

Goodell did not specify Tuesday whether Snyder would face penalties from the league if he continues to refuse to be interviewed by White. Goodell said the NFL remains committed to releasing the findings of White’s investigation publicly.

“Our clients are pleased to read press accounts suggesting that the tyranny of Dan Snyder’s ownership of the Commanders could be closer to an end,” attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former team employees, said in a statement Tuesday. “However, allowing him to sell the team at what will certainly be a large premium without full accountability for his misconduct would be a travesty of justice. …

“We want an assurance from the NFL that Mary Jo White’s report will be released without further delay. Snyder should not be permitted to continue dictating the timing of release of this report.”

Clarke reported from Washington.