The potential buyers include Behdad Eghbali and José Feliciano – billionaire co-founders of Clearlake Capital, a Santa Monica-based private equity firm – and Feliciano’s wife, Kwanza Jones, a singer / songwriter and philanthropist who grew up in the DC area.
Their offer has been tentatively accepted by the team’s three minority shareholders: FedEx CEO Fred Smith, real estate tycoon Dwight Schar and investor Robert Rothman. But Snyder is blocking the sale, according to those familiar with the situation, by trying to selectively exercise his right of first refusal to buy back minority stakes in the team before they are sold to other parties. While the three minority owners are trying to sell their 40 percent stake together, Snyder said they offered to buy only the 25 percent from Smith and Rothman, not the 15 percent from Schar.
Eghbali, Feliciano and Jones did not respond to multiple requests for comment or to Smith, Schar and Rothman. Snyder and the team also declined to comment.
The three minority owners sued him in US District Court in Maryland on November 13 in an attempt to get a federal judge to force Snyder to go ahead with the sale. This is clear from court files released on Friday and a person with knowledge of the lawsuit. The New York Times initially reported details of the case, which was filed under Siegel, with the lawsuit and all related court records hidden from the public.
This week, lawyers for the Post wrote to the court protesting the decision to move the case forward in confidence. On Thursday, US District Judge Peter J. Messitte responded with a letter that the case would remain sealed until at least December 3, when he decides on the Post’s challenge.
The NFL and other team owners are not pleased that Schar, Smith and Rothman took the dispute to court, someone who knows the ins and outs of the league. “That’s not how it’s done,” said that person.
Recent advances towards a possible sale came after the minority owners lowered their asking price, according to a person familiar with the situation. The team is worth $ 3.5 billion, according to the latest Forbes estimate, which is 40 percent worth $ 1.4 billion. However, according to industry experts, these numbers typically only apply if the team is fully sold. Shares for minority ownership in NFL franchises are worth less because they have no authority over the team’s operations.
Smith, the FedEx founder who lives in Memphis, has been trying to sell his stake in the team since 2019. Rothman and Schar came to see him that spring. All three turned to Baltimore-based investor John Moag to handle the sale. The desired farewell quickly turned bitter, according to a person familiar with the situation, and Snyder kicked the minority owners off the team’s board and denied them access to his degrees.
In June, the co-owners filed a complaint against Snyder with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who appointed an arbitrator to settle the dispute, according to two people familiar with the process. The complaint process, which is carried out privately, is ongoing.
Then the dispute was taken to court, and Snyder took legal action on two continents to launch an internet misinformation campaign to defame him and somehow force him to sell the team.
Some of the people and companies Snyder searched for documents had ties with Schar, including Comstock Holding Companies, a Virginia real estate company of which Schar’s son-in-law is the director. Mary Ellen Blair, a former Snyder executive assistant who has lived in Comstock real estate for years; and Moag, the banker hired by the minority owners to sell their stocks.
While most of Snyder’s attempts to obtain records from these individuals are ongoing, the attempt with Blair was recently completed. In court files and hearings, Snyder’s lawyers said they had evidence that Blair called two team employees in July and, in separate conversations, told them they could “make a lot of money” corrupting information about Snyder and an upcoming story in The Post would detail how Snyder does “dirty” and “illegal” things.
While Blair’s attorneys denied these allegations, a judge ruled that Snyder was entitled to the documents he was looking for. Snyder recently dismissed the case, and any records he received from Blair are likely to remain confidential unless he uses them in a public lawsuit.
“The matter was resolved on amicable terms,” said Natalie Harris, a Blair attorney, who declined to comment.
All proposed property sales will be reviewed by the NFL Finance Committee and must be approved by a three-quarter vote of the league’s 32 owners. If Jones, Feliciano and Eghbali were approved by the NFL, they would be the third group of minority affiliates Snyder has owned in his 21 years.
Snyder was 34 years old when he and fellow investors Mortimer Zuckerman and Fred Drasner bought the team and its Landover Stadium for $ 800 million in 1999, a record at the time for an NFL franchise. Zuckerman paid off about six months later, and Snyder and Drasner took his roughly 15 percent stake.
In 2003, the NFL approved the addition of three new co-owners: Smith, Rothman, and Schar, then a Virginia-based real estate developer and the only one with roots in the Washington area. Drasner sold his stake in 2004.
Buying a minority stake in the team would be a kind of homecoming for Jones, a Los Angeles native who moved to the DC area as a child and attended Calvin Coolidge High before leaving for Princeton, where she met her future husband. In September, Jones and Feliciano donated $ 20 million to Princeton, the largest gift in the university’s history donated by black and Latin American donors, according to a school press release. That summer, Jones was involved in efforts to convince Princeton officials to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from a school and several campus buildings based on racist comments and actions attributed to the former president.
Puerto Rican native Feliciano is worth $ 2.1 billion, according to Forbes’ latest estimate. Eghbali is estimated to be worth $ 2 billion.