Current NFL Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has always been vocal about his pride in his Washington D.C upbringing and the impact the Redskins made on his childhood. Years later his immense business success gave him the financial capability to not only become part of the franchise, but acquire ownership in the team he loved so dearly. Let’s break down the details of the nine month long ordeal that ultimately brought Snyder’s dream into fruition.
Death of Jack Kent Cooke
It all began with the team’s previous owner, Jack Kent Cooke. After his passing in 1997, his fortune and legacy fell into what trusts and estate lawyer George Albright called “the most bizarre will I’ve ever seen”. Cooke’s main priority was the creation of a charitable foundation in his name. The estate granted John Kent Cooke, his only surviving son, $10 million. However, Cooke remained committed to the team and continued his fight to uphold his father’s legacy. With substantial interest from diverse investors, a tumultuous bidding war ensued.
The first offer for the team and stadium was $450 million, proposed by real estate financier Andrew Penson. Submitted prior to the official bidding commencement, Penson’s offer would have shattered previous NFL purchase records. Instead, it sparked a competitive battle unprecedented in the industry. Once Morgan Stanley Dean Witter provided prospective buyers with an initial offering memorandum, Dan Snyder announced his interest in the franchise. Snyder had recently increased the revenue of his media company, Snyder Communications, from $47 million to $333 million in two short years. Not only did this feat prove Snyder’s aptness for success, it gained him the title of the Youngest CEO of a New York Stock Exchange-listed company. The hype surrounding this emerging businessman opened new doors for Snyder to pursue ventures to which he has personal connections.
Preceding the November 22nd deadline, more than 10 bidders from varied industries submitted offers. Among them were previous coach Joe Gibbs, who paired with hotelier Sam Grossman- alongside a catalog of various real estate moguls. The substantial revenue of the stadium itself showed major promise for the value of the franchise. Industry professionals estimated the final sale to reach nearly $500 million. John Kent Cooke resisted prospective buyers, citing his father’s wishes to maintain the integrity of the franchise within the family. NFL officials seemed to share the same sentiment but were ultimately persuaded by anticipated financial gain. In a bold move, Daniel Snyder formed an alliance with New York real estate investor Howard Milstein. Before the second round of bids were finalized on December 22nd, Snyder and Milstein submitted an ample cash offer of $700 million. Surprisingly the offer was rejected but paved the way for the final agreement of $800 million. Despite John Kent Cooke’s attempts to gain investors, his efforts fell $100 million short of Snyder’s proposition.
After reaching an agreement, the ultimate decision rested on approval by reigning NFL owners. The NFL commissioner allowed the final vote to be delayed, citing media sensationalization as a controversial factor. Over the course of the next month, officials scrutinized the integrity of the financial backing of Snyder’s counterpart, Howard Milstein. Eventually Milstein withdrew from the deal and Snyder revised the bid after assembling a new team of investors. He reached out to Mortimer Zuckerman and Fred Dasner, two financial powerhouses that were initial investors in Snyder Communications. It was then that Daniel Snyder reaffirmed his intentions with the team, defending his interests. “I’m not focused on the money, I’m focused on the opportunity and the dream,” Snyder said.
Finalizing the Sale
On May 25th, 1999 the NFL voted unanimously in favor of Daniel Snyder’s acquisition of the Washington Redskins franchise. Snyder quickly proved himself to honor the wishes of the late Jack Kent Cooke, focusing on the Redskins Foundation during his first three years of ownership. The foundation has made major impacts on the Washington D.C communities, providing more than $190 million for scholarships, among many other philanthropic ventures. Though John Kent Cooke did not achieve his expectations in the ordeal, his stake in the company gained him $60 million in the sale. More importantly, he remains a large part of the foundation his father dreamed of before his passing.
Learn more about Dan Snyder: https://www.redskins.com/team/front-office-roster/