This offseason, the longtime and beleaguered owner of the Washington Commanders, Dan Snyder, decided to finally cash in and sell the franchise.
The Snyder Family announced in November 2022 that they had acquired the services of Bank of America Securities to pursue potential investors or buyers. That’s when Josh Harris and his partners stepped in originally with plans to purchase the team on April 13.
The move initially came with the blessing of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and was expected to be widely approved by the other owners. Snyder’s saga in Washington has been a tumultuous one, both on the field and off, since purchasing the team for a then-record $800 million in 1999.
Josh Harris is the leader of a consortium trying to put this deal together to buy the Commanders. He co-founded Apollo Global Management in 1990, which is where he built his incredible financial portfolio. Forbes estimates his current net worth is $5.8 billion dollars.
Harris is already the owner of two other major sports franchises – the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils – through his firm Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. His business partners are fellow billionaire Mitchell Rales (net worth: $5.5 Billion), as well as NBA legend and part-owner of the LA Dodgers, Magic Johnson.
Unfortunately, the sale hasn’t been made completely official yet. And another horse in the race may be trying to nose out Harris’ supergroup at the finish line.
Bank of America – the group handling sale offers — was still in communication with another bidder as late as last Thursday, asking if they were available to proceed with their offer, according to a recent report.
Former Duke basketball star Brian Davis has put together an offer reportedly valued at approximately $7 billion to compete with Harris & Co’s original play.
If he’s able to pull it off, he would become the first black majority owner in NFL history. A DC-area native, Davis is apparently being seriously considered over Harris and his faction. A source close to the deal says his bid is still “in play.”
However, there have been questions about Davis’ source of capital. Not the least of which are whispers that the deal may be receiving funding from the Saudi Investment Fund. The same group is the owner of the upstart LIV Golf Tournament, which is now directly competing with the PGA and signed many of its high-profile stars to more lucrative deals.
In recent years, Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi Arabian government have been utilizing sporting events to soften the nation’s global image. Aside from their ventures in golf and horse racing, the Saudis have also partnered with World Wrestling Entertainment to hold multiple large sports entertainment events in Riyadh.
At least one report is suggesting that they are now involved with Davis, his group, and their efforts to be the proverbial fly in the ointment. What once looked to be a sure touchdown for The Josh Harris Group might now be stopped short of the goal line.
According to A.J. Perez of FrontOfficeSports.com, the source of Brian Davis’ funds “originated from the Middle East.”
One member of the Davis camp told Perez that “at least some of the funding is coming from Israel.” Another source told Perez that “those involved in the process believe the true source of the funds is Saudi Arabia.”
Meanwhile, some in the DC sports media have been treating the story about Brian Davis’ bid as still merely a rumor and nothing to set in stone. Many don’t believe that Davis can really come up with the capital, while others are saying a hint of impropriety involving the Saudis would be an automatic deal-breaker.
For his part, Davis felt the need to address the situation. Clearly, he wanted to cool down any confusion regarding his cash for the Commanders.
Davis has countered this claim in an interview with CBS affiliate WUSA-TV, after that story was published. He flatly denied the funds came from the oil-rich nation or anyone representing their government.
“The money is not Saudi Arabian, and I’ve never been to Saudi Arabia,” Davis stated.
Sources within Davis’ camp expressed to the media outlet they believe their bid will be the one that’s ultimately accepted. Documents submitted to Snyder and the NFL (and later obtained by WUSA9) show that Davis is the owner of Urban Echo Energy LLC, “a LEED-certified developer of renewable energy assets.”