The Washington Commanders, of American football’s NFL, have officially been taken over by a new ownership group led by billionaire Josh Harris after league owners approved the sale of the franchise, while previous owner Daniel Snyder faces a $60 million fine from the league.

Yesterday (July 20), all 32 NFL owners voted to approve the sale of the franchise to the consortium led by Harris, which also includes basketball legend Magic Johnson and billionaire Mitch Rales, Harris’ longtime sports business partner.

The approval comes two months after the new ownership group entered into a purchase and sale agreement with previous owners Dan and Tanya Snyder after they agreed to sell the team for a record price of $6.05 billion.

The deal breaks the previous record sale for a franchise, set in August when the Walton-Penner family ownership group bought the Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said: “Josh will be a great addition to the NFL. He has a remarkable record in business, sports, and in his communities. The diverse group that Josh has put together is outstanding for its business acumen and strong Washington ties and we welcome them to the NFL as well.

“I know he has a commitment to winning on the field, but also to running an organization that everyone will be proud of — and to making positive contributions in the community.”

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Harris has finally succeeded in purchasing an NFL franchise after being a finalist in the bidding for the Broncos last year before the Walton group won out.

He already owns several US sports teams – the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL ice hockey franchise the New Jersey Devils – through the Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment company. He and partner David Blitzer also own part of English Premier League soccer club Crystal Palace.

Harris co-founded asset management firm Apollo Management and has a net worth of $5.8 billion, according to Forbes. Rales, a Washington-based billionaire has a net worth of $5.5 billion.

The deal for the Commanders also includes FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, as well as the team's practice facility in Ashburn, Virginia.

The Commanders have been seeking a new stadium in the DC area, but it is believed that the presence of Snyder and the investigations into him and the franchise had stalled the process in the past year.

The approved sale ends the tumultuous Snyder-led era, which started when he led a group that purchased the Commanders (former the Redskins) in 1999 for $800 million.

The approval comes the same day the league announced it has fined Snyder $60 million following the release of an independent investigation, which found workplace misconduct and financial improprieties while he owned the team. The investigation was led by former Securities and Exchange Commission chairperson Mary Jo White.

The NFL hired White to investigate an allegation of sexual harassment against Snyder by a former employee in April last year. Snyder has previously denied the allegations, but the investigation has now corroborated the complaints.

The 22-page report also outlined financial improprieties at the team, including intentionally underreporting “approximately $11 million in revenues.”

During the investigation, Snyder and his wife and co-chief executive Tanya hired Bank of America to explore selling all or part of the team amid multiple investigations over the franchise’s workplace culture and finances.

The team had been embroiled in controversy over the previous three years, starting with the Washington Post reporting several instances of sexual harassment by former employees in July 2021. Other outlets also detailed a poor workplace culture under Snyder.

After an initial investigation, the NFL fined the team $10 million.

In October 2021, the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform launched its own probe into allegations against Snyder. That led to separate investigations by the attorneys general in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia into alleged financial improprieties. The US attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia also launched an investigation into the same allegations.

The Commanders have lost multiple commercial partners as a result, including brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev. They were also forced to change their name after pressure from sponsors because it was a derogatory and racist term.

Over the past two years, around 15 senior executives left the team for various reasons.

Image: Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images