Washington Football Team Owner Dan Snyder Saw His 1st Business Fail at Just 17 Years Old

An NFL team is worth billions, creating an enormous obstacle for anybody hoping to buy a franchise. Unsurprisingly, most NFL owners are billionaires. What’s more surprising is that many of those owners didn’t begin their lives with wealth. In the case of Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder, he learned to fail long before he learned to succeed.

Rather than letting early setbacks derail him, Snyder bounced back to launch himself on a track to wealth. Let’s investigate Snyder’s recent scandals, before looking back at the early business exploits that led to him becoming an NFL owner.

Scandals in Washington from day one

Snyder’s tenure as owner of the Washington Football Team has been a rocky one basically since the beginning. For one thing, the team has spent most of that time mired in mediocrity, having missed the playoffs far more often than not. A lot of the responsibility rests on Snyder’s shoulders, especially when you consider his poor coaching decisions and poor free agent signings.

Snyder has also managed to make himself the target of ire in a number of other ways. He spent the better part of a decade refusing to change the name of his team, despite increasingly strident pleas from Native American activists, football fans, and corporate sponsors. Snyder even went to drastic measures to try and lobby support for the “Redskins” name—measures that are only more embarrassing now that the team has shed its former name.

Snyder made it back into headlines recently over well-documented accounts of workplace sexual harassment. Among other things, former cheerleaders have alleged that Snyder approved of a lewd video request and even propositioned one of the cheerleaders on behalf of his friend. At this point, the league is seriously investigating its options to force Snyder out as an owner.

Dan Snyder’s first business failed when he was just 17 years old

Snyder’s first business failure came at the tender young age of 17. He and his father went in on a business venture together. It involved selling packaged bus tickets to Washington Capitals fans. The tickets gave hockey fans an easy way to see their team play in Philadelphia. But only if they could convince anybody to buy them.

Snyder and his father hand-distributed the fliers during a Capitals home game, putting them under the windshield wipers of fans cars. Their efforts proved fruitless, however. Bad weather and a badly lost game conspired to ensure that Snyder’s fliers went all but ignored. In the end, they didn’t receive a single order for a bus ticket.

Later businesses struggles and eventual success


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Snyder briefly attended the University of Maryland before dropping out to run a business from his parents’ house. That venture involved leasing jet planes and selling trip packages to college students looking to get away for spring break. It took only two years for Snyder to turn his new pursuit into a million-dollar business, according to the Washington Post.

Emboldened by his success, Snyder decided to start publishing a magazine geared towards college students and called “Campus USA.” Snyder enlisted his sister and father to help him with the venture, only to see it fail after several years because the publication could not generate a sufficient amount of paid advertising.

In the process, however, Snyder and his family created a business—Snyder Communications—that would ultimately make them all wealthy beyond their dreams. Not surprisingly, Snyder himself came away with the largest share in that business, which eventually allowed him to accrue the massive amount of wealth needed to buy an NFL team.