Daniel Snyder might be facing an untenable position as owner of the Washington Redskins. Finally backed into a corner financially after years of being shamed into it, Snyder has agreed to change the NFL team’s nickname and mascot.
Public perception of Snyder was negatively affected by his stubbornness for two decades. The ride could be rougher for him if rumors of impending bombshell disclosures from the Washington Post turn out to be true.
Voluntarily or otherwise, Snyder may have to be shown the door for the sake of the NFL’s reputation. Commissioner Roger Goodell could be preparing the orders by now. While other owners routinely make operational decisions at least as bad as those made by Snyder, none of them are as far into the doghouse as Snyder already is – and the situation could get worse in a hurry.
So, who could and should make a run at buying the Redskins from Snyder?
Setting the parameters for a sale of the Washington Redskins
At the risk of stating the obvious, it will require money to buy the Washington Redskins. Forbes appraised the team at $3.4 billion last fall, ranking seventh in the NFL. The pandemic’s effect may drive down that value in the short term, but it would still take $3 billion and change to win the bidding.
Forbes lists more than 600 Americans with a net worth of $4 billion, but many of them would lack the liquidity to pay the full price upfront. That probably lops a quarter of the candidates from the list. Another quarter may be disqualified by their age or the enormity of their wealth.
The powerful figures presiding over NFL teams crave stability, so the new owner of the Redskins would probably need to be under 60 years old or have a strong succession plan – i.e., a competent heir — in place.
As for money, too much of it probably wouldn’t sit well with current owners. The salary cap assures at least some competitive balance on the field, but big wallets in the owners’ suites could translate into disproportionate influence in dealings affecting everyone’s bottom line – local media rights, corporate sponsorships, etc.
Forbes lists David Tepper (Carolina Panthers, $12.7 billion), Stan Kroenke (Los Angeles Rams, $10 billion), Shahid Khan (Jacksonville Jaguars, $8.1 billion), and Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys, $8 billion) as the wealthiest current NFL owners.
Jones might be the ceiling – in terms of assets and outspokenness – that NFL owners would be willing to embrace.
Forget about these big names then
Having set the parameters for replacing Daniel Snyder as such, scratch Jeff Bezos as a candidate. Though the driving force behind Amazon already owns the Washington Post, his $178 billion pile of money is larger than all the other current owners combined. (By the way, happy 25th anniversary to Amazon.)
Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are also way too rich. Ditto for Elon Musk and Oracle founder Larry Ellison, who nevertheless would be joys to observe at owner meetings.
Dan Gilbert ($7.6 billion) would fit the financial profile, but his stewardship of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers has been shaky at times. His connection to Chick-fil-A, under fire from gay rights activists, would take savvy businessman Dan Cathy ($7 billion) out of the running by league owners worried about PR implications.
So, suddenly that original list of 600 American billionaires who might be able to buy the Washington Redskins has thinned out.
These billionaires should consider bidding for the Washington Redskins
NFL teams compete against each other on the field, but Daniel Snyder and the other 31 team owners, by and large, are partners off of it. Sharing national TV money and league-wide sponsorship revenue creates an incentive to cooperate. Sure, the late Al Davis went rogue and Jerry Jones likes kicking hornets’ nests, but NFL owners respect sharp business minds and will want their new partner to bring as much wisdom as money to the table.
Reed Hastings co-founded Netflix and previously sat on the board of directors at Microsoft and Facebook. Hastings and his wife made a splash last month by committing to donations of $120 million to two historically black colleges and the United Negro College Fund in the largest individual contribution ever to HBCUs.
Twitter and Square co-founder Jack Dorsey would also bring a media and technology background to the table, potentially useful as the NFL continues to push beyond network and cable television to advance its brand. However, his $7 billion net worth may not translate into enough liquidity to purchase much more than the minimum stake to be a managing partner rather than the outright owner.
Perhaps a family would want to take up the challenge. Brothers Robert, Dirk, and Daniel Ziff inherited a publishing fortune from their father and grew it substantially by forming an investment firm. The three are worth $5 billion apiece, according to Forbes.
Fellow NFL owners should embrace Mark Cuban
As is so often the case when the subject of pro sports ownership arises, Mark Cuban’s name must be mentioned.
Yes, he’s outspoken and unconventional. But Cuban is a self-made billionaire and has become a leader among NBA owners, even if he does get fined by the league on a regular basis for tirades about officiating. Heaven knows, the NFL could use someone who isn’t reluctant to hold referees to any sort of standard.
As much as Cuban has been embraced by basketball fans in Dallas, he’s received the cold shoulder from Major League Baseball. He was frozen out of final bidding on the Chicago Cubs in 2008, made a run at the Texas Rangers before losing out to Nolan Ryan’s group in 2010, and dropped out early when the Los Angeles Dodgers were sold in 2012.
Joining the NFL fraternity wouldn’t make Cuban any more visible or accessible than he already is, so NFL owners would already know what they were getting into by approving Cuban as the new owner of the Washington Redskins. Meanwhile, he would add useful experience in business, sports ownership, and technology to the football mix.