Nov 14, 2022 - Sports

Bezos looms over Ishbia's interest in owning NFL's Commanders

Mat Ishbia

Mat Ishbia, president and chief executive of United Wholesale Mortgage. Photo courtesy of UWM.

Mat Ishbia — the mortgage industry billionaire and former MSU basketball player — is eyeing a bid for the Washington Commanders in his quest to own an NFL franchise.

Why it matters: Owning a team in the country's most popular sports league would elevate Ishbia's national profile and could increase his business clout.

  • Ishbia, president and chief executive of the Pontiac-based United Wholesale Mortgage, would join Dan Gilbert, Sheila Ford Hamp, the Ilitch family, Tom Gores, Stephen Ross and Steve Ballmer among pro sports owners with Detroit connections.

Ishbia recently told the Washington Post, "I am interested in exploring this opportunity further in the very near future."

  • A UWM spokesperson tells Axios there is nothing further to add right now.

Yes, but: Former Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, with his massive wealth and D.C. connections, appears to be the front-runner among potential Commanders bidders.

What they're saying: "If the rumors are true about Bezos, which does make sense, he's kind of a no-brainer," Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a sports management expert at George Washington University, tells Axios.

Catch up fast: Commanders owner Daniel Snyder recently hired an investment bank to assist with a potential sale.

  • Snyder's stewardship of the team has been woeful since he acquired it in 1999, but the last couple years, including sexual harrasment lawsuits and a lengthy name change process, have been especially damaging.
  • A federal criminal investigation into the team's financial improprieties was reported earlier this month.

The intrigue: The Commanders could fetch up to $7 billion — another milepost in pro sports teams' rapidly escalating values.

The bottom line: Even if he's outbid this time, Ishbia seems determined to own a pro team in the near future.

  • "I really do believe he'll be an (NFL) owner one day," Delpy Neirotti says. "There's going to be other teams up for sale."

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