Nov 2, 2022 - Economy

Private equity won't play in Washington Commanders sweepstakes

Illustration of the Washington Commander's logo peeling back to reveal a hundred dollar bill on the reverse side.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Dan Snyder is seeking a buyer for the Washington Commanders after a 23-year ownership that's been best known for losing football and off-field controversies. But private equity funds won't be among the bidders.

What to know: NFL rules prevent private equity funds and other forms of institutional capital from owning franchises, even if they only hold minority stakes. That's different from many other pro sports leagues, including the NBA, MLB, NHL and Premier League.

  • Nonprofits also can't own teams (the Green Bay Packers are grandfathered in), nor could something like a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO).

In context: Gerry Cardinale, whose RedBird Capital Partners owns all or part of such franchises as AC Milan and the Boston Red Sox, said at the Axios BFD event last week that he doesn't expect the NFL to allow private equity investment:

  • "I think the NFL is in a class by itself ... They're not going to have their hands forced to change the rules."
  • RedBird is part of the investment group backing the latest XFL revival, which has formed a partnership with the NFL.

Big picture: The most recent NFL franchise sale was last summer when Walmart heir Rob Walton and his family paid $4.65 billion for the Denver Broncos.

  • Before that, it was hedge fund manager David Tepper buying the Carolina Panthers for $2.2 billion in 2018.
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