Dan Snyder: Closing the NFL Deal

It’s not news that plenty of the public love NFL players, past and present. Legendary coaches like Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry are also placed high on pedestals.

Do the owners get much love? Not always, especially those who look at their ownership purely as a business investment.

Not so for Dan Snyder who fulfilled a lifetime dream by putting a deal together in 1999 to purchase the team that was once called the Washington Redskins and its stadium.

Since then, he has been with the team through wins and losses and good news and bad news.

While some business-focused owners may have started looking for another buyer after a tough season or a few negative headlines, Snyder, who grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, has stuck with “his team” since his childhood.

He likes to tell stories about how he and his dad used to walk down to the neighborhood TV shop on the weekends to watch Redskins games since they couldn’t afford a home TV.

He also enjoys sharing that his purchase of the team was never about the money: it was a way to help bring the team back to its past glory, improve the stadium, sell more tickets, improve everyone’s morale, and start making more great memories.  

Daniel Snyder and his financial backers were committed to focus on “the opportunity and the dream” for the Redskins organization, and he wanted then, and now, to make the community proud.

This effort included putting much-needed improvements into the arena, and then looking for ways to get more businesses involved, such as offering naming rights. FedEx was one of the larger organizations to step up, and today the field bears its name.

The Redskins organization became active in helping surrounding communities. Dan Snyder helped start the Redskins Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit that assists families, schools and kids. It raises millions of dollars and is always looking for ways to give back to community centers, tribes, hospitals, military groups and organizations that need help.

Has it been a good investment? Financially, this has been proven true: the purchase price was $750 million in 1999, and today the Washington Football team is worth around $3.5 billion. Analysts expect even more positive growth and goodwill when a new name and logo are announced.

Dan Snyder has seen benefits as well, and his personal net worth is now worth about $2.6 billion. But he’s quick to say that he always loves the team, regardless of balance sheets.  

Putting the Pieces Together

Even before his role with Washington Football, Daniel Snyder had a great story.

He was born in Silver Springs, Md., in 1965. He worked a variety of jobs including at a mall bookstore and mopping the floors of the cafeteria at the National Institutes for Health. He studied in London and the U.S.

During college at University of Maryland College Park, he often put together various entrepreneurial projects to help his fellow students as well as make money for himself. For instance, he put together charter bus trips to take fellow hockey fans to away games for the Washington Capitals. This idea was expanded when he put together charter jet trips to take students to spring break destinations. This project did so well he left school to focus on trip arranging and other endeavors full-time.

Another side project that did well was publishing. As a recent college student, he knew what students wanted to read about. So he started Campus USA, a national magazine for students.  Along with subscribers all around the country, Campus USA attracted lucrative sponsors and advertisers.

The magazine shut down after about three years, but Dan Snyder said the experience was worthwhile, especially since it taught him so much about advertising at a large scale as well as some great connections he hoped he could cultivate.

One prominent individual he met during these days was Mortimer Zuckerman, the publisher of U.S. News and World Report magazine. Zuckerman said he was impressed with Snyder’s attitude and hustle.

Following the closure of Campus USA, Dan Snyder and his sister Michele started Snyder Communications, which helped companies with advertising, including billboards, wallboards, direct mail, samples and more. The company went public in 1996 and was given a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. By 2000, it had offices around the world and 12,000 employees.

When French media company Havas approached the Dan and Michele, they decided to sell the company for $2.3 billion.

Dan Snyder then took the opportunity to try other media ventures, including forming Red Zebra Broadcasting, a group of radio stations in the D.C. area that offer the Redskins Radio Network. He also founded inVentv Health.  

Today, Dan Snyder lives with his wife Tanya. They have been married since 1994, and have two daughters and a son.  

The Big Deal

Although Daniel Snyder’s business accomplishments were interesting, the effort he put into purchasing the football team remains especially noteworthy.

The team had been in the hands of Jack Kent Cole since 1985. After Cole’s death in 1997, his estate gave $10 million to his son John but didn’t include full control of the team. So various interests came together to offer competing bids for the team.

This competition led to a blind auction, several proposals, and the creation of various investments. John Kent Cooke initially received some support but eventually bowed out after the prices offered for the team kept growing from as many as 10 groups.

Dan Snyder was one of these interested bidders. He initially partnered with real estate investor Howard Milstein to come up with $800 million but this deal went through. Finally, he put together his own deal that involved support from his family as well as a group of past contacts and other investors.

Once the deal was approved by the NFL and the Cooke family trustees, Dan Snyder gained a seat at the owner table. Only in his mid-30s, he was considered one of the younger owners at the time.