The news came out of the blue on Tuesday morning — after more than 20 years of Daniel Snyder owning the Washington Football Team, his wife, Tanya, became both co-CEO and co-owner. So why now, after all these years?
The Washington Post offers up a couple of different possible reasons for the sudden shift at the top of the franchise.
One theory is that the move represents a P.R. effort, aimed at shifting focus from the lingering workplace misconduct investigation that launched last year and the ugly ownership squabble between Snyder and three minority partners whose interests he recently purchased. Another theory is that Tanya Snyder would take over the team in the event that the league suspends her husband for his role in the workplace issues.
There’s another theory not contained in the report from the Post that should at least be considered. As the value of NFL franchises continues to skyrocket — and as Snyder has pulled 100 percent of the interest within the control of his family — it will be important to position the equity so that estate-tax obligations can properly be managed, if/when the Snyders transfer ownership and control of the team to their children. Giving the team to his kids remains Daniel Snyder’s top objective; as the spread of legalized gambling inevitably pushes franchise values toward 11 figures, it will be harder and harder to come up with the cash necessary to satisfy Uncle Sam when a major piece of the team passes from one generation to the next through inheritance.
It’s also possible, quite frankly, that to the extent there was any monkey business happening in the past, Tanya’s presence and involvement will ensure that the frat-boy dynamic does not resurface.
Whatever the reason(s), the lawyers who represent more than 40 former employees want more transparency regarding all things WFT. Via the Post, Lisa Banks and Debra Katz called Tuesday’s news “a shallow attempt to show progress without making any meaningful changes,” and an effort by Daniel Snyder “to try to placate” the league.
“To show any true commitment to change, the Washington Football Team and NFL must make the full findings of the independent investigation public and act on Wilkinson’s recommendations to provide both transparency and accountability,” Banks and Katz said. “We must know the full truth of what has happened at the organization before any meaningful progress can actually occur.”
It’s unclear whether the league will take any significant action against Daniel Snyder, based on the ongoing investigation of the allegations of workplace misbehavior. Some believe that the league’s decision to allow Snyder to exceed the per-team debt limit in order to buy out his partners implies that the ultimate punishment, if any, won’t be significant. Others wonder whether the league allowed Snyder to take on gigantic debt under the assumption that he’ll have a hard time paying it off, and that he’ll eventually have to take on a partner who will have a path to control, like the Ravens when Art Modell eventually sold the team to Steve Bisciotti.
However it plays out remains to be determined. Today’s developments undoubtedly represents a major strategic effort by Snyder aimed at enhancing the chances that he and his wife will be able to eventually hand the team over to their children.