Seeking to move past a year of tumult over the team’s former name and a sexual harassment investigation of its front office, the owner of the Washington Football Team is close to a deal with fellow league owners that will give him greater control over the organization while he pays a fine for executives’ misconduct.
The arrangement effectively resolves two pressing issues: a protracted boardroom fight over ownership that spilled out into the open and an investigation by the N.F.L. into allegations that women who worked for the team were sexually harassed by staff members, a number of whom have already been dismissed.
The league owners next week are expected to approve a special waiver that would allow the owner, Daniel Snyder, to take on an additional $450 million in debt in order to buy out minority partners he has been battling, according to a copy of the resolution reviewed by The New York Times. The N.F.L.’s finance committee last week unanimously recommended that the full cohort of owners waive the limit of debt a buyer can take on to buy into a team. Snyder will have to repay the money by March 2028.
Support for Snyder’s purchase comes as the N.F.L.’s investigation into sexual harassment claims made against former Washington Football Team executives concludes. In the coming days, Commissioner Roger Goodell may address the findings collected by Beth Wilkinson, a Washington-based lawyer whom Snyder hired last summer to investigate after several Washington Post articles reported widespread sexual harassment of women who worked for the team over a 15-year span. The N.F.L. took over her investigation from Snyder.
Snyder’s pending purchase of his partners’ shares and the end of Wilkinson’s investigation into the team’s internal culture come after a chaotic year for the franchise. The team decided to drop its nickname and logo last July after years of criticism from some Native American activists who considered it a racist slur and threats from major corporations that they would end sponsorships if the name stayed. The Washington Football Team is still reviewing possible new names and logos.
Since then, Washington sought to rectify its 3-13 record from the 2019 season by firing numerous front office executives and hiring a new coach, Ron Rivera, at the beginning of 2020. In August, Rivera learned he had cancer and began treatments for it, but he coached the full season, leading the team back to the playoffs for the first time in five years.
To try to revive the club’s tattered image, Snyder has hired several new executives, including Jason Wright, the N.F.L.’s first Black team president. A coed dance team will perform on game days, replacing the cheerleading program, which had been overseen by one of the since-fired executives who had been accused of sexual harassment.
Snyder will pay $875 million for the 40.5 percent of the team owned by Dwight Schar, Robert Rothman and Frederick Smith, ensuring his total control of the franchise he bought a majority stake of in 1999.
When the purchase is completed, which is expected shortly, Snyder and his family will hold 100 percent of the club and end a very public fight with Rothman, Schar and Smith, who bought into the team in 2003. Last spring, the three men banded together to try to sell their stakes after Snyder declined to pay them annual dividends as a way to conserve the team’s cash with the 2020 N.F.L. season still in doubt because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In August, the private disagreement over distributed dividends turned into corporate warfare that spilled into public view. Snyder all but accused Schar of orchestrating a smear campaign against him by contending in court documents that Schar facilitated the spread of negative information about him to the media with the hope that bad press would ultimately force Snyder to sell his majority stake. In that situation, the trio’s shares would have garnered a higher price if the team was sold as a whole.
The three minority owners — Schar, a real estate developer; Rothman, an asset manager; and Smith, the chairman of FedEx — turned against Snyder, accusing him in federal court of bad-faith dealing and malfeasance.
Even as Wilkinson was brought in last July to conduct an investigation into team executives’ conduct toward female employees, the N.F.L. had hired in late June former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to untangle the squabble among the Washington Football Team’s owners.
The Washington Post reported that two women had accused Snyder, 56, in separate episodes of harassment dating to 2004 — which he denied — and that he reached a financial settlement in 2009 with a female former executive who had accused him of sexual misconduct during a trip on a private jet.
Now, with the investigation into his and other team employees’ conduct wrapping up and the conclusion of his boardroom battle in sight, Snyder can focus on another major task: deciding how to rebrand the football team whose future is entirely under his control.
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