About Boardroom

Boardroom is a media network that covers the business of sports, entertainment. From the ways that athletes, executives, musicians and creators are moving the business world forward to new technologies, emerging leagues, and industry trends, Boardroom brings you all the news and insights you need to know...

At the forefront of industry change, Boardroom is committed to unique perspectives on and access to the news, trending topics and key players you need to know.

All Rights Reserved. 2022.

Exploring Diverse Ownership Candidates for the Washington Commanders

From Robert F. Smith to Byron Allen to Jay-Z and beyond, Boardroom identifies several minority candidates who could be in the mix to buy the team.

This week’s announcement that Dan Snyder and Tanya Snyder would begin exploring options regarding a potential sale of the Washington Commanders — which was shortly followed by news of a federal investigation into the organization’s business practices — felt like a long time coming.

In its most recent round of NFL valuations, Forbes valued the Commanders at $5.6 billion, while Sportico pegged the team at $4.78 billion — the average of the two is $5.19 billion. All told, a team sale is likely to exceed the $5 billion threshold, and perhaps by a significant margin.

We can also look to previous team acquisitions for precedent. In 2021, Sportico valued the Denver Broncos at $3.8 billion and Forbes had them at $4.2 billion; the team ultimately sold for $4.65 billion earlier this year, 16.25% higher than the combined Forbes-Sportico average of $4 billion.

For what it’s worth, a 16.25% increase from $5.19 billion would be $6.03 billion.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get on our list for weekly sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

Needless to say, if the Snyders do sell 100% of the Commanders, the price will exceed any previous record set. As noted by Sportico, the rules for NFL ownership include:

  • An NFL team’s principal owner (sometimes known as a “general partner”) must own an equity stake of at least 30%.
  • The league permits up to $1 billion in debt to be taken on from the purchase of a franchise.
  • An owner who has owned a team for 10-plus years must hold at least a 1% equity stake.
  • A basic succession plan must be defined.
  • No more than 25 individuals in an ownership group.
  • Any transaction must be approved by 24 of the 32 incumbent NFL owners.

With this in mind, let’s explore some potential diverse athlete and celebrity ownership candidates who could be a good fit to purchas a stake in the Washington Commanders.

Potential Commanders Majority Owners

Robert F. Smith

There have been conflicting reports about Vista Equity Partners Chairman and CEO Robert F. Smith’s interest in buying an NFL team. While several outlets reported that Smith, a Denver native, was interested in buying the Broncos, others insisted that purchasing a sports team is not on his mind. Regardless, Smith has no shortage of funds to be a potential owner. Bloomberg’s billionaire index has clocked Smith at $11.9 billion, a mark that makes becoming a majority owner of an NFL team an achievable feat should a concrete opportunity arise.

Another reason that the league may want Smith to buy a team is the easy one — the value of NFL teams has only risen with each purchase. And while the league has modified its ownership rules to give the edge to ownership groups that are comprised of diverse members, the pool of diverse candidates that could conceivably buy a majority stake in a major sports team could grow smaller with each team sale.

Oprah Winfrey

The wealthiest Black woman in the world is worth $2.6 billion according to Forbes. Oprah has not expressed interest in buying an NFL team but should she want to do so, purchasing the necessary 30% of the team could be within reach if the price tag doesn’t overshoot $5 billion by too much.

David Steward

The founder of World Wide Technology is worth $5.1 billion, according to Bloomberg’s billionaire index. Back in 2009, Steward made a bid for 30% of the then-St. Louis Rams, but lost out when Stan Kroenke was permitted to increase his existing stake to 100% the following year. If Steward is interested in buying a team, he would appear to have the cash flow to take on a majority stake in the Commanders should the Snyders decide to sell.

Potential Commanders Minority Owners

Jay-Z

Reports from the Washington Post are already out about Jay-Z and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos potentially teaming up to bid for the Commanders. In 2019, Hov’s Roc Nation signed a deal with the NFL in 2019 to advise the league on music performances and amplify the NFL’s Inspire Change program; ownership was not part of the pact the two sides agreed on three years ago, but it remains an option for Jay-Z.

Hov sold his stake in the Brooklyn Nets back in 2013 after starting a sports agency, which leaves open the option for him to recruit any of his wealthy, high-profile friends to join his cohort. As it relates to Bezos, well, his net worth is $112 billion, so he would not need any actual financial help in purchasing the team, but with NFL rules giving an edge to a more diverse party, having someone like Mr. Carter in his corner does not hurt one bit.

Both People and TMZ reported the interest from Jay and Bezos this week:

Jay-Z’s net worth is reportedly $1.5 billion, so it’s far less likely that he’d be in a position to become the biggest stakeholder in an NFL ownership group. But if the sticker price checks in around $5 billion, we won’t fully count him out.

Rihanna

Yes, I know. Hear me out on this one:

Super Bowl LVII’s much-anticipated halftime show performer comes with a $1.2 billion net worth, and though Rihanna has never publicly expressed interest in being part of an NFL ownership group, to be clear, she’s in a terrific position to level up as an investor as the next phase of her professional life takes shape.

Most of her money has been generated not from music, but from her Fenty Beauty line that she launched back in 2017; If Rihanna was interested in buying a piece of a team, it’s easy to imagine a group of investors wanting her uncommon cachet in the fold.

Byron Allen

Allen had been interested in buying the Broncos, but ultimately was not a part of the winning bid. Allen’s net worth is reportedly $800 million as noted by CelebrityNetWorth, while multiple other outlets have him listed around $400 million. Regardless of the “real” number, if the team were to sell for north of $5 billion, Allen is not likely to be a majority stakeholder candidate due to the requirement that he’d need to own at lest 30% of the team — upwards of $1.5 billion.

Bloomberg reported this week that Allen is currently assembling a team to bid for the franchise:

Magic Johnson

Earvin “Magic” Johnson is fresh off bidding for the Broncos with Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris, and though he eventually lost to the Walton-Penner group, another opportunity has risen. Johnson’s net worth is over $600 million according to Forbes; he is also a co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and had a stake in the LA Lakers before selling in 2010.

Stephen Curry

Back in 2018 when the Carolina Panthers were for sale, Stephen Curry expressed interest in buying a piece of his hometown team. Curry was reportedly shot down by the NBA, however, since it was Philadelphia 76ers part owner Michael Rubin’s bid that he was attempting to join — league bylaws prevent players from forming business partnerships of any kind with equity stakeholders of other NBA teams due to concerns over potential conflicts of interest.

Curry’s career earnings on the court thus far are $302 million, though that will swell to $470 million by the end of 2026 million, to say nothing of his stake in Under Armour as the face of its Curry Brand. Both Louis Hamilton and Condoleeza Rice bought minority stakes in the Broncos after the team was purchased by the Walton-Penner group. Curry could attempt to do the same as long as there are no NBA owners involved.

Diddy

Sean “Diddy” Combs was also reportedly part of Michael Rubin’s Panthers bid in 2018. As Diddy tweeted at the time:

  • “I would like to buy the @Panthers, spread the word. Retweet!”
  • “there are no majority African American NFL owners. Let’s make history!”

Back then, it would not have been possible for Diddy to be a majority owner of the Panthers, who sold for $2.2 billion. Thirty percent of $2.2 billion is $660 million, and in 2017, Forbes had Diddy’s net worth clocked at $820 million — freeing up sufficient liquidity would not have been conceivable. His net worth has since grown to over $900 million; should he still have interest in buying a nice piece of an NFL team, there is a real path.

Naomi Osaka

Tennis icon Naomi Osaka is the reigning highest-earning female athlete in back-to-back years. She is estimated to be worth $53 million according to Sportico, with most of that money coming from endorsements. Notably, she is also already familiar with the state of North Carolina, as she bought a stake in the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage last year. As she said in an interview with People:

“I’ve been wanting to get involved with the NWSL for a while, to promote women’s sports and also as a business investment because I can see it growing rapidly.”

Osaka has never expressed interest in buying an NFL team publicly, but with the updated NFL ownership rules giving an edge to diverse groups, she’s an intriguing candidate to recruit as a rising star investor.

(And hey, this is pure speculation and nothing to report, but maybe a certain DC-area native and Commanders fan sees an opportunity to add to a sports portfolio that already includes franchises in MLS, NWSL, and and Major League Pickleball.)

Read More:

Sign up for our newsletter

Get on our list for weekly sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.