How Daniel Snyder Became an NFL Owner By Acquiring the Washington Redskins  

How Daniel Snyder Became an NFL Owner By Acquiring the Washington Redskins  


How Daniel Snyder Became an NFL Owner By Acquiring the Washington Redskins  


Daniel Snyder has been at the helm of Washington Redskins for over 20 years since his first acquisition in 1999. In what was a record transaction in NFL history as the most expensive team-purchasing deal, Snyder acquired one of NFL’s oldest franchises established in 1932. Twenty years later, the football team has had its share of history and controversy that makes it one of the most storied. We look back at how Daniel Snyder became an NFL owner and the whole process that took 9 months to complete.

The story of Dan Snyder as the owner of the Washington Redskins has been widely told over the years. He placed a bid to be the owner of the NFL football team following the death of Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke in 1997. Before his death, Cooker wrote a will that directed a bulk of his estate to go to a foundation that bears his name and fund college scholarships. His surviving son John Kent Cooke was the then president of Washington Redskins and placed a bid to have the football team remain permanently in the family. The board of trustees was in charge of selling the NFL’s great franchises to the best bidder.

The bidding process

Once the official offer was opened to purchase the NFL football team, Snyder was ready to get it done. He allied with Milstein and together worked towards placing the highest bid in getting the team’s ownership. However, Snyder was not the only person who bid for the ownership of the Washington Redskins. New York real estate financier Andrew Pension was the first to make an offer for the ownership of Washington Redskins in 1998. This was before the bidding had officially been announced. The pension had an advantage of support from the Lehman brothers as he provided bidding of $450 million. This was the highest bidding to ever be paid for an NFL franchise at that time but was not enough in the end.

Snyder entered the frame by showing an interest in purchasing the team in November 1998. Snyder showed his interest to purchase the football team has grown as a fan of the Washington Redskins. At 33 years of age, the young man showed zest to lead one of the famous football teams in the country. As newspapers scrambled to understand the new Bethesda man, the then 33-year-old businessman was already a strong contender for the ownership. His marketing firm “Snyder Communication Inc. was doing well in terms of revenue. Daniel Snyder allied with the owners of NHL’s Islanders a few days before the initial bids were due to increase his chances of bagging the deal.

The competition for ownership of the football team was stiff and intense with the current owner wanting to keep the Redskins in the family. As many 10 bidders had placed their offers before the deadline for submission, which raised the stake for the company. Experts predicted the football franchise to fetch at least $500 million in the final bid. Later on, eight groups from the 10 bidders were invited for the second round of bids.

Dec 22, 2019; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver Steven Sims (15) celebrates with Redskins wide receiver Cam Sims (89) after scoring a touchdown against the New York Giants in the third quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL had a different preference 

However, the NFL had made it clear of preferring the Redskins franchise to remain with the Cooke family. Under Cooke’s leadership, Washington Redskins had won three Super Bowls in 25 years of majority ownership.  The former owner John Kent Cooke was unable to raise sufficient funds that could allow him permanently purchase Redskins. Cooke had the desire, will, and ingenuity to keep the Redskins in his family but lacked enough money to achieve the same. The selling of this franchise was a loss of a family business to John Kent Cooke who has desired to keep the Redskin name in the family.

The NFL league officials had informed trustees of waiving several financial requirements for John Kent Cooke as he tried to maintain the Redskin franchise into the Cooke name.  For example, they were allowing a minimum amount of personal wealth for John Kent Cook required above the money included in the bid. This is the concessions that were not allowed for the other group of bidders.  As a result of their determination to have the Redskins franchise remain in the Cooke family, the NFL spent much of the time scrutinizing the Snyder’s offer. They went to the extent of requesting more financial documentation and hiring a private investigator to do background checks on Snyder. They were also worried about giving Redskins football team in the hands of Milstein whose financial plan was too debt-laden and litigious.

Dec 22, 2019; Landover, Maryland, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (87) catches a touchdown pass as Washington Redskins strong safety Landon Collins (20) defends in the first quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The winning bid

Daniel Snyder broke his alliance with Milstein as he began working to secure financing of the $800 million offer. He had amassed fortunes from his earlier business entrepreneurship including his own Snyder Communications Inc. This is a marketing service company he had established alongside his sister in 1988 He was the youngest ever CEO to a New York Stock Exchange Listed Company when Snyder Communications Inc. was listed in 1988. In purchasing the ownership rights, Daniel Snyder financed the purchase of Washington Redskins from borrowed money. He worked to secure financing that could match the $800 million offer in a bid backed by family members and friends. Some of the original investors in Snyder Communications Inc. backed his bid with $350million in equity.

Snyder placed a bid of $700 million in cash during the second bid in an attempt to preempt the process and pressure trustees into making a decision.  In this bid, Snyder stipulated that the offer would expire one day after bids from other candidates were due. While this earlier bid was declined, Snyder remained in the running and offered a better bid of $800 million to purchase the Washington Redskins.  The board of trustees was obliged to accept the highest bid for the business and comply with the law, which they did. They had the responsibility of reviewing all bids and making a decision before it would be approved by the NFL owners. After several rounds of bidding, Daniel Snyder gained unanimous approval from league owners in 1999 to buy the franchise for $800 million.

Dan Snyder had a genuine interest in taking ownership. He praised the stewardship of the Cooke family in leading the Redskins franchise as he began a journey to uphold the legacy. When he took over as overall owner and controller of the football team, Snyder promised to uphold the legacy that the family had created. Since the takeover, Snyder has been a popular figure in the NFL due to his experience managing the Washington Redskins. One of Snyder’s first acts as a team owner involved selling the naming rights to Jack Kent Cooke stadium. Federal Express was the highest bidder for the naming rights and renamed the stadium to FedEx Field.

20 years later, Daniel Snyder had guided the Washington Redskins into one of the most profitable and highest-earning NFL teams. However, this has not been a smooth journey all along with many ups and downs. Snyder is known for his shrewdness that has seen him fire coaches one after another. He has worked with eight head coaches in 20 years and two playoffs. It remains one of the best NFL franchises in terms of annual revenue.

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