Dan Snyder’s Road to NFL Team Ownership

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Daniel Snyder grew up cheering for the Washington Redskins, little knowing that someday he’d end up owning “his team.”

But that’s exactly what happened in 1999, when the D.C.-area native successfully put together a plan to purchase the team and its stadium. The price tag for the whole deal was $750 million which, at the time, really wasn’t bad, considering the stadium wasn’t in the best shape, the team hadn’t had a strong season in a few years, and fan morale and ticket sales were low.

Then – and now – Dan Snyder maintains that putting the deal together was never about the money. He said he, and his backers, felt that they could play a vital role in bringing the Redskins back to their past triumphs and create even more glory. It was really “more about the opportunity and the dream” and that he wanted to be part of an effort to make the community proud.

That mission has continued over the last two decades. This investment has taken him through various ups and downs including five championships, coaching changes, facility improvements, logo discussions and more. He has pushed for a variety of enhancements to the building, including bringing in new sponsors. This effort has included all sorts of branding, such as FedEx, a corporate sponsor who was able to be acquire naming rights for the field.

Dan Snyder and the Redskins organization have also been active in community endeavors and were responsible for the start of the Redskins Charitable Foundation, an organization that helps schools, families and children in need in the D.C. area. The foundation also focuses on disaster relief and ways to give back to hospitals, community centers, tribes, the military and other groups that need assistance.

Today, the organization is worth approximately $3.5 billion. It’s currently going by the name “Washington Football Team” but analysts expect good things if or when a new name and logo is announced.

Snyder also has done well in this ownership role – his personal net worth is about $2.6 billion. Not bad for a guy who remembers walking down the block with his dad to the TV store as a child to catch Redskins games since the family couldn’t afford their own TV.

Early personal success

Dan Snyder was born in 1965 in Silver Springs, Maryland. He worked hard at a variety of jobs as a teen, everything from mopping the cafeteria at the National Institutes for Health and in a bookstore. He studied in the U.S. and in London.

An early entrepreneurial effort had Dan Snyder arranging charter bus trips to take fans of the Washington Capitals hockey team to away games in Philadelphia. He later arranged spring break trips aboard private jets for college students looking for luxury transportation to lovely destinations. This latter effort did so well he decided to leave his studies at the University of Maryland College Park and focus on other endeavors.

He then moved in to publishing and started Campus USA, a magazine designed for college students around the country. Along with a strong subscriber base it also brought in lucrative advertisers and sponsors. This magazine attracted the attention of Mortimer Zuckerman, who at the time was the publisher of U.S. News and World Report magazine. Campus USA folded after three years but in that time, Snyder had made some valuable contacts in the advertising and publishing.

His next project was a collaboration with his sister Michele, starting Snyder Communications. They helped companies build their brands and expand their outreach, including billboards and wallboards. The promotional efforts soon moved into direct mail, samples, database marketing and more.

In 1996 Snyder Communications successfully went public and gained a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. There were worldwide offices by 2000 and more than 12,000 employees. That year, the company was purchased for $2.3 billion by Havas, a French media company.

He went on to found inVentv Health and Red Zebra Broadcasting, which owns a series of radio stations in the greater D.C. area, home of the Redskins Radio Network.

He has been married to Tanya Snyder since 1994, and they have two daughters and a son.

Redskins deal

Daniel Snyder’s purchase of the Redskins in his 30s brought one of the youngest faces to the NFL owner table. But his skill at making money, bringing in investors and putting deals together has been in use for years.

Although he continued to do well in other financial ventures, the team purchase was the culmination of plenty of determination that has been a part of his life for years.

When Dan Snyder decided to throw his hat in the ring and try for ownership of the Redskins, he’d already made a variety of contacts in financial, media and advertising realms, including personal and professional supporters who eager to join his effort to buy the team and also help him fend off bids from members of the family of previous owner Jack Kent Cole.

The deal was particularly complex and odds initially were against Snyder.

The team only had two previous owners, George Preston Marshall, who was involved with the team from 1932 to 1969. He was followed by Jack Kent Cole, who ran the team from 1969 to his death in 1997. Cooke’s will created a foundation to offer scholarships, and he also gave $10 million to his son John Kent Cooke, but didn’t directly pass team ownership to him.

What happened then was competing proposals, a blind auction and the creation of various financial entities all interested in ownership of the franchise.

Initially, John Kent Cooke found support from the NFL, but he eventually was outbid by the other offers for the team. As many as 10 entities presented bids, including owners of other sports teams and successful entrepreneurs such as Daniel Snyder. He created a partnership with Howard Milstein, a real estate investor, and offered $800 million. However, there were concerns about debt. Later, Snyder put together his own deal which was eventually approved by the NFL and Cooke’s trustees.