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Daniel Snyder, Jeff Bezos and the drama around the Commanders sale, explained

Of course Dan Snyder has turned this into a mess.

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NFL: Washington Commanders at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing about Daniel Snyder trying to sell the Commanders is normal. Of course, any situation that involved Snyder giving up control of his football team was going to be fraught with weirdness.

The most recent reports center on multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon and The Washington Post — and whether or not Snyder has blocked the world’s third-richest man from owning his pride and joy. On Saturday a report from The Athletic, citing sources close to the sale, saying that he was blocked from purchasing the team “months ago,” without a lot of concern from Bezos’ camp.

“It’s a free country, he can sell to whomever he wants,” the person briefed on the sale process said. Bezos, because he is barred from bidding, has not had access to the team’s finances.

This was countered by a report from Front Office Sports on Monday which said Bezos has not been blocked from purchasing the team. However, there is growing fear among NFL owners that Snyder is messin around and has no real intention of selling the Commanders.

“NFL owners have grown increasingly concerned over the pace of the Washington Commanders sale, fueled by reports that owner Dan Snyder won’t allow Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bid for the franchise.”

Toying around with Bezos is antithetical to actually selling the team. This should be a hand-meets-glove deal, which reliably ensures a sale goes through with a party that has zero funding concerns, would be immediately approved by NFL owners, and moves the team to a person with business connections in the D.C. area. Of course, Snyder is going to make a simple process as difficult as possible, but what is his end game here?

No. 1: Snyder is trying to drive up the price of the Commanders

This seems like the most likely scenario here. The original asking price for the Commanders was $6B, far above the $4.65B the Denver Broncos sold for in 2022. However, recently reports indicate that Snyder is waiting for a $7B offer to emerge. Granted, the team is more valuable than Denver was — but it’s still a vastly inflated price.

Each year Forbes ranks the value of NFL teams, and the Commanders actually lost ranking in this regard. To be fair, the team is still worth an extraordinary amount of money, evaluated at $5.6B, but it’s still off the $7B Snyder is looking for.

Considering the team value rose 80 percent from 2016-2021 there’s a chance Snyder is banking on more future growth — but even at an average growth rate of 16 percent year-over-year, the team will not be worth $7B until 2025 at the earliest. Snyder is asking for that money now, with no assumed risk for slower growth, or league contraction.

At the end of the day $7B is tantamount to chump change for Bezos. Hell, it’s seven-times less than Twitter cost Elon Musk, and a far better business investment. Faux exclusivity is an extremely hamfisted sales tactic, but it’s entirely likely Snyder believes that by blocking Bezos (assuming The Athletic’s sources are correct) it will lead to more interest, and thus a potential offer that ups the price.

No. 2: Snyder has no intention of selling the Commanders at all

This is the NFL’s fear, and it makes perfect sense. Obviously it’s in Snyder’s best interest to get as much money for his team as possible, and nobody is denying him the right to do that — but when it comes at the cost of turning away the best possible investor, it’s enough to raise eyebrows.

At best Snyder is a reluctant seller. Any move at this point is purely out of pressure from fellow owners and the NFL itself. The organization and Snyder himself has a laundry list of scandals and improprieties, some of which as still waiting to be heard in court, and there’s no boon to having him in the ownership group at this point.

If Snyder sets arbitrary, unrealistic goals, like getting $7B for his team and not accepting any less, then it would require an undisciplined investor who is prepared to pay over market value. It’s unclear who is left in that regard.

So far potential offers for the Commanders have come from Josh Harris, owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, who is reportedly offered $6.3B, and Tillman Fertita, owner of the Houston Rockets who is believed to have offered “slightly above $5.5B” for the team, but is seen as an outside chance.

It’s the Harris offer that’s confusing here. Originally it was said that Snyder wanting $6B, and here’s an offer that’s $300M over that — and still there’s been no movement on a sale. It’s entirely likely Snyder is just screwing around, hoping that initiating a sales process would lead to the NFL leaving him along, while planning on the back end never to sell the team.

No. 3: This is all driven by pettiness

Never, ever underestimate Snyder’s ability to be petty as hell. The elephant in the room when it comes to a potential sale to Jeff Bezos is the snowball that started this avalanche in the process.

In 2020 the Bezos-owner Washington Post wrote a ranging, investigative report into workplace harassment, malpractice, and impropriety inside the Washington Commanders that laid out everything that happened in the organization under Snyder’s watch. This led to a congressional hearing on the team, which in turn put pressure on the NFL to answer why Snyder was still an owner, leading to the heat being turned up on Snyder to sell the team.

Obviously, the Post is an independent entity, and it’s not like Bezos had his paper write the story to interfere with Snyder, but if anyone can find an imaginary ax to grind in the NFL it’s Dan Snyder. There remains every possibility that he has a huge grudge against the Washington Post, and Bezos by extension, which would lead him to viewing a sale to Bezos as “losing,” even if it meant turning down the highest offer.

Outside of driving the price up, this is the only logical conclusion to why anyone would reject Bezos as a bidder. That there’s something beyond money motivating Snyder, and this would be an obvious point of conflict.

How does all this end?

Realistically, all signs are still pointing to Snyder selling this team. It’s always been a vanity project for him, albeit one that’s made him wealthier than his wildest dreams. He purchased the team for $750M in 1999, so he’s already on pace to make an 800 percent return on his investment — but beyond that Snyder has always loved viewing himself as a hero, even while being despised.

Over the last two years the narrative surrounding the Commanders has morphed. The team is no longer so bad that they’re booed, but rather the boos are directed right at Snyder. Try as he might to ignore them, deep down he can’t, and it’s eating him alive to see his team be loved, while he’s so reviled.

That ego is the most pressing reason Snyder would walk. To be clear, he still doesn’t want to — but it beats being torn apart by tens of thousands of people every week when you appear on a jumbotron.

Snyder might think he’s playing 4D chess by trying to drive up the value of his team, when in reality he’s playing checkers. In the end he will sell, and whoever buying the Commanders will be happy with what they’re paying.