- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 26, 2023

In a recent interview with local television station WUSA9, Team President Jason Wright said the sale process of the Washington Commanders “continues to move forward.”

But with a month until the NFL owners’ meetings in Arizona, there’s still much to sort out — like who is going to buy the team. 

The league’s meetings next month have long been a key target date for a Commanders sale to be completed since the gathering would provide a chance for NFL owners to sign off on any agreement and approve Washington’s next buyer. Despite being a month out, rumors continue to swirl about what owner Dan Snyder will do with the franchise.

Over the weekend, multiple reports emerged that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been “barred” from submitting a bid for the Commanders and hasn’t been allowed access to the team’s finances. Bezos, seen often as a front-runner because of his vast personal wealth, faces the obstacle in spite of hiring investment firm Allen & Company to help with a possible purchase. Bank of America, the investment bank hired by Snyder to explore a sale, has told the technology mogul that it won’t accept an offer from him.

The rejection highlights the long-rumored tension between Snyder and Bezos — the latter of whom owns The Washington Post, which published an expose on the team’s sexual misconduct scandal that landed Snyder in hot water with the NFL. Over the past few months, there have been conflicting reports about whether Bezos would be interested in buying the Commanders, though his candidacy has been a subject of fascination for the league. 

With Bezos facing hurdles, another prospective candidate to buy the Commanders has emerged. 

The Washington Post reported that Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has submitted a bid for the Commanders — but the offer was “slightly above” $5.5 billion. Fertitta, who purchased the Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017, is also believed to have toured the Commanders’ facilities, the paper reported. 

Fertitta’s offer, however, still falls short of Snyder’s asking price — which may or may not be changing depending on the outlet. There are reports that Snyder is asking $7 billion for the team, but the New York Post and Fox Business have more recently reported the price is now $6 billion. 

The billion-dollar difference in price tag isn’t the only conflicting rumor when it comes to the Commanders’ sale, either. An unnamed source told The Washington Post that the sale of the team is at a “little bit of a standstill,” while The Athletic cited an anonymous source who said activity has “ramped up” regarding a possible deal. The New York Post reported earlier this month that efforts to sell the Commanders “aren’t going well,” though Fox Business reported the process is still expected to be completed by next month’s owners’ meetings.

There are still many unanswered questions surrounding a possible deal, too. Would Snyder — after facing pressure to sell from the NFL — really hold onto the franchise if he doesn’t get the deal he wants? Would he turn away the possible highest bidder in Bezos just because of a grudge? 

An unnamed sports lawyer told The Athletic that the process is playing out “exactly how many feared,” with Snyder potentially being in line to keep the franchise. Another source told the New York Post that Snyder “may not want to give it up.” 

If that happens, could the NFL look to force Snyder out? The league has never formally ousted an owner — such a move would require 24 of 32 votes — but Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has said Snyder’s removal merits “serious consideration.” The league is waiting for investigator Mary Jo White’s probe into the Commanders to conclude before determining the next steps, but NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said there is no deadline for White to make a report. 

If the NFL ousts Snyder — and takes control of the team — would that reopen the door for Bezos? New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said earlier this month that Bezos would make a “great owner” if he were to buy the Commanders. And though Bezos is barred for now, it remains to be seen whether Snyder would reconsider (or if the league will pressure him to reconsider) an offer from the Amazon founder. 

The NFL owners’ meetings, meanwhile, begin March 26 and are scheduled to conclude March 29. If there is no agreement for owners to vote on next month, a special meeting could always be held once there is a deal is reached. 

A special session, for instance, was called last August for owners to approve billionaire Rob Walton’s $4.65 billion purchase of the Denver Broncos. 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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