Jeff Bezos is teaming up with music mogul Jay-Z to acquire the Washington Commanders in a bid that could value the National Football League team at up to $6bn, said two people briefed about the matter.
The founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post newspaper is the frontrunner to buy the team as existing owner Dan Snyder has been forced to sell after being engulfed in a financial scandal. Two people said Bezos was ready to pay more than $5.5bn.
Josh Harris, the billionaire private equity executive who left Apollo last year after a messy succession battle, is also competing to buy the team formerly known as the Redskins before Snyder came under pressure to change its racially insensitive branding, those people said.
A deal worth about $6bn would be a record for a sports team and the latest sign that the world’s wealthiest individuals are willing to spend top dollar to secure sports assets, particularly NFL teams that rarely come up for sale. The last sale occurred in June, when Rob Walton, the billionaire heir to the Walmart fortune, acquired the Denver Broncos for $4.6bn.
Jay-Z, the rapper and entrepreneur, runs a sports agency through Roc Nation, his entertainment group whose clients include NFL player Saquon Barkley. The 52-year-old, whose real name is Shawn Carter, already has influence over the league: Roc Nation in 2019 agreed to a partnership to advise on the Super Bowl halftime show and help the league’s social justice efforts.
The team’s sale comes amid new scrutiny into Snyder’s financial management of the football franchise after years of investigations into its alleged toxic culture.
The US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia is investigating allegations of financial improprieties, ESPN reported on Wednesday. The probe stems from a letter the House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent to the Federal Trade Commission and a number of state attorneys-general, which alleged the team withheld revenues due to visiting teams playing in Washington, and the return of deposits for tickets to fans.
The US attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia did not immediately return emails seeking comment. The FTC declined to comment.
Snyder has faced disciplinary action from the NFL for overseeing a culture of alleged sexual harassment. In 2021, Snyder paid a $10mn fine levied by the league over allegations including sexual harassment and other misconduct in the workplace.
“It is now clear that the culture was not what it should be, but I did not realise the extent of the problems, or my role in allowing that culture to develop and continue,” Snyder said in a statement at the time. “I feel great remorse for the people who had difficult, even traumatic, experiences while working here.”