In 1999, Dan Snyder was the head of Snyder Communications Inc., a company that would make Snyder the youngest owner of a company on the NYSE. He was an unlikely candidate to purchase the Washington Football Team after owner Jack Kent Cooke passed away, but he didn’t let that stop him. See why this 33-year-old businessman was more than up to the task more than 20 years ago.
From Humble Beginnings
Dan Snyder was not always accustomed to success. In fact, his first business venture didn’t exactly pan out. His father, a freelance writer, helped Snyder with his first failed initiative to sell bus packages to hockey fans to see an away game.
This sports lover learned a priceless lesson in his pursuit though, one that he would use when he eventually began his marketing services firm with the help of his sister. Under his leadership, the annual revenue went from $43 million to $333 million in just two years.
A Dramatic Premise
Jack Kent Cooke had one surviving son when he passed away in 1997, but he did not leave the franchise to him. Instead, the team was sold in a blind auction in 1999, and the team was very much up in the air up until the final paperwork cleared on the sale.
While John Kent Cooke was interested in purchasing the team after his father’s death, he was ultimately unable to secure the necessary financing. This opening allowed several potential buyers to voice their interests, all of whom were trying to find the right angle to achieve the necessary approval of both the trustees of Cooke’s estate as well as the rest of the NFL.
Taking the Lead
This predicament left Snyder trying to find his own way to secure a team that he had spent many Sundays with. The Washington Football Team had always been his favorite from a young age, and his love of the game was rooted in the dream it represented to him as opposed to the endless profits to be made. Snyder learned to start with his passion and then let the money follow.
After carefully assessing the situation, Snyder saw a partner in a fellow buyer. Howard Milstein was a real estate investor with a major stake in the NHL Islanders.
The two businessmen made a cash offer of $700 million, a number that already exceeded that of any other franchise deal by more than $150 million. Yet, this bid was rejected, leading the two to increase to approximately $800 million.
The Next Step
The $800 million was accepted by the trustees of the Cooke estate, but the bid did not go over well with the rest of the NFL. In fact, the NFL was trying to make it easier for John Kent Cooke to purchase the team. After seeing the resistance of the other team owners, of which Milstein and Snyder would need a 75% majority to be approved, the two officially withdrew their bid.
The hesitation of the owners had nothing to do with Snyder though, which is why he would end up persevering on his quest by seeking financing through other means. After speaking with his family and two investors of Snyder Communications Inc., Daniel Snyder was able to match the $800 million bid accepted by the board of trustees. In the end, he would receive unanimous support from the NFL to buy the Washington Football Team in 1999.
What It Takes
Snyder may have had to contend with plenty of opposition during his rise to ownership, but throughout it all, he was able to keep his perspective. Despite dissolving his financial partnership with Milstein, the two remained friends.
To Daniel Snyder, football is so much more than just a game. It’s brought hope and joy to people in this incredible nation, something that can never be measured in money. He would receive hundreds of letters from fans voicing their suggestions and support, a message that Snyder would take to heart in the upcoming years.
A Firm Direction
The years the team spent without an owner were turbulent ones. Trent Green would famously sign with the Rams after rejecting an offer from the Washington Football Team during this state of limbo. When Snyder took over, he had a firm vision that would wind up significantly increasing the profit margins of the franchise.
Snyder would go on to improve the parking logistics at the stadium, streamlining traffic and reducing congestion. He also added more suites and club seats to the stadium, selling out sections that were once empty. Dan Snyder and the Washington Football Team would make big waves in the NFL over two decades, causing other owners to emulate many of his initiatives.
Daniel Snyder started off with a dream of bringing a few hockey fans to an away game, and he ended up bringing millions to a stadium to witness a team he had cherished from childhood.