There is, perhaps, no current NFL owner more mercurial than Dan Snyder. For over 20 years, the Washington Football Team owner has been in charge of one of the most famous franchises in American sports. However, after looking at how Snyder earned his wealth, it helps to explain and further complicate the man he is today. Snyder discussed this with The Washingtonian in 2006.
Dan Snyder’s upbringing
Snyder’s story wasn’t one of a legacy reaping the benefits of his family’s wealth. The son of a freelance writer, Snyder had a relatively normal upbringing that drove him to something better. He started his college career at Montgomery College before transferring to the University of Maryland. However, the school did not intrigue him academically.
Instead, Snyder used the college setting to start his own business, a travel agency that he ran out of his parents’ apartment, details the Washington Post. Snyder learned the ins and outs of the travel industry and hooked classmates up with deals. While the travel business didn’t go anywhere, it made Snyder realize that his journey to the business world did not require a degree, but real-world experience that he could get away from college.
Snyder began a friendly relationship with real-estate tycoon Mort Zuckerman. Trying to start his own business, Snyder used Zuckerman to help launch his ambitions. However, after losing a $3 million loan that Zuckerman gave him, Snyder’s career in business didn’t look too promising. However, this failure helped Snyder realize what he wanted to do, and his life was never the same.
In his early twenties, Snyder and his family took on debt to help him realize his ambitions. That ambition turned out to be Snyder Communications, a marketing company that helped cater to college students and visitors to doctors’ offices. With several thousand dollars sunken into the business in 1989, the Snyder family’s fate rested on this endeavor.
Before long, the investment started paying off. “By 1990 it was hot,” Snyder told the Washingtonian. “It was doubling and doubling and doubling. We started to acquire companies that were doing product sampling in different areas.”
In two short years, Snyder went from struggling young entrepreneur to a bona fide millionaire. He parlayed a natural charisma and ability to sell himself to potential suitors into a lucrative business. By the late ’90s, however, Snyder wanted to think bigger. He began taking the proper steps to own a professional football team.
The next step
In 1999, Snyder began to travel around the country and meet with NFL owners about the prospect of owning a professional football team. With the then-Washington Redskins looming sale, Snyder wanted to make sure that investing in a football team made financial sense.
Snyder pulled together $300 million from his personal funds and other investors to make his dream a reality. The league overwhelmingly supported the move, and Snyder was an NFL owner just 10 years after starting his lucrative business, as Forbes reports. The years since have not been kind to Snyder, however. That same willingness to do what needs to happen to reach success has alienated a lot of people.
From the scandal surrounding the former team name to the recent bombshell accusations of a toxic work environment, Snyder’s success story has come with a lot of failures. Looking back, his early days at college helped shape him into the businessman he is today. Still, the story also shows a man who doesn’t always thrive at reading the room and selling his product in a positive light.
Time will tell how Snyder’s tenure with Washington goes from here on out, but the story about how he got here is both inspiring and cautionary.