The Washington Redskins likely will have a new name and minority shareholders in the franchise at some point in the near future. Two days after the team announced it would strongly review its name, multiple reports stated the team’s three minority shareholders — Dwight Schar, Bob Rothman and Fred Smith — are looking to sell after 17 years and have hired an investment banking firm to help.
That, of course, leads to more questions about a franchise that has faced a great deal of scrutiny in recent years under owner Dan Snyder.
What impact does this have on Snyder?
Two days after the 2003 season ended, when the Redskins needed another coach, Schar made a phone call. To Joe Gibbs. It set in motion a series of events that led to the bombshell return of Gibbs as coach.
While Snyder eventually closed the deal, it was Schar who made the first call to his longtime friend in an aggressive early pursuit. Schar was on the board of Gibbs’ Youth for Tomorrow Foundation, and the two had a strong relationship.
That was an unusual situation, but the impact will come mostly at a personal level. In the past 10 months, the organization hierarchy has changed quite a bit: Several trusted employees, including president Bruce Allen and senior vice president of football operations/general counsel Eric Schaffer, are gone. So, too, is Redskins senior vice president of communications Tony Wyllie and athletic trainer Larry Hess. They all knew Snyder well. They knew he was a demanding owner, with late-night calls and expectations to alter plans at the last minute.
Hess (18 years), Schaffer (17), Allen (10) and Wyllie (10) combined for 55 years of experience under Snyder.
But Snyder still had his group of minority investors that he considered friends. Smith, the chairman and CEO of FedEx, was not a regular at games, home or away, but Schar and Rothman often attended (Rothman, the chairman and CEO of Black Diamond Capital, was at just about every game). They became tight with Snyder and, one source said, served as a calming influence after games. Snyder would hang out in the owner’s box after games, sometimes pacing, depending on the result. He could get lost in the minutiae of the moment, but the others could present a big-picture focus, a source said.
One source said Schar, chairman of NVR, the the nation’s fifth-largest home builder, “couldn’t be more down to earth but also had common sense brilliance to him, and Fred is the same.” Both provided strong guidance when needed and business wisdom for Snyder over the years. One source said Snyder almost idolized Smith, especially for his business acumen in how he built FedEx. As one person said, “This had to sting [Snyder].”
Will they have trouble finding new investors?
Late last season, during the team’s search for a new coach, one refrain stood out: There are only 32 teams. In other words, someone would want the job because the NFL is a fraternity few can join. One person who used to work for Snyder provided the same answer when asked about finding more investors.
But it certainly won’t be easy.
When this trio invested in the Redskins in 2003, it cost them a combined $200 million initially for a 20% stake. In July 2019, Forbes listed the franchise value at $3.1 billion. If that’s the case, replacing the group’s 40% stake with three other investors would require a pay-in of about $400 million apiece. That’s a hefty fee, which might force Washington to seek a lot more investors. Snyder could recruit a number of people or celebrities in his orbit. In 2015, NBA star Kevin Durant, who grew up in the shadows of FedEx Field and is a big Redskins fan, told the ESPN Fantasy Football Podcast that “[Owning a team] would be cool. My first priority would be the Washington Redskins, but I, even if it’s a small percentage, man, I just want to be involved.”
Any new part-owner would have to be approved by three-quarters of the NFL owners.
If the team changes its name and moves back into the District with a new stadium in 2028, it would increase the value of the franchise. That could tempt investors. Snyder has been able to convince others to join him in the past, whether it’s coaches or smart businessmen such as Smith, Schar and Rothman. With a new name, it might remove one obstacle for potential investors.
Also, despite a string of failures in recent years, the franchise remains valuable. Washington has posted one 10-win season over the past decade and hasn’t won a playoff game in 15 years. It had the third-lowest percentage of home attendance in the NFL last season. Yet, the Redskins ranked 14th on the Forbes list of the top 50 most valuable sports teams a year ago. They were fifth among NFL teams.
And, while some wonder about what it means for Snyder’s ownership, another person who knows him well says he’d have a hard time ever seeing Snyder sell the franchise — even if it could command a price tag of $4 billion.
“It’s his identity,” the source said. “That’s a big, big deal.”
What impact do minority owners have?
In many cases, minority owners get some of the perks but don’t have to worry about the responsibility of ownership. There’s no real day-to-day impact. Often it’s about being part of a club without the headaches. They can fly in for games, get escorted to the stadium, watch the game and then go home.
But with only a combined 40 percent share — Snyder, his mother and his sister own 60 percent of the team — they don’t have voting power and don’t always have a say in team matters. Snyder’s inner circle has changed, and often he receives guidance from outside sources. However, while Schar had a big influence in landing Gibbs, Rothman was a key part of the interview process in luring current coach Ron Rivera, according to a source. He also was at the scouting combine with Rivera and Snyder earlier this offseason, prompting one person close to the situation to express surprise that Rothman would want to sell.
Snyder needed this trio for their money. When they bought in 17 years ago, Snyder used their $200 million to pay down debt, taking it from $450 million to about $250 million.
There’s no explanation yet as to the timing of why they want to sell their shares, if all three do sell. Multiple sources said they did not think it had to do with the team name, though Pro Football Talk reported that Smith had been trying to convince Snyder for several years to change the name. Indeed, FedEx put out a statement on Thursday saying it had asked the franchise to do so — one day before Washington announced it would seriously reconsider the name. If Smith did want the name changed, and Snyder appears headed down that path, it wouldn’t make sense for that to be the reason.
Another source said that one of the minority owners — believed to be Schar — is looking to retire. He’s 78 years old.