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Owner Of Newspaper That Dan Snyder Tried To Put Out Of Business Now Owns Snyder’s Football Team

Washington Commanders soon-to-be ex-owner Dan Snyder on the field before his team lost the Dallas Cowboys in 2022.
John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Dan Snyder era ended with a whimper, not a bang. Snyder and an investor group led by Josh Harris went the Friday night news dump route in disclosing that the latter had agreed to pay the former $6 billion and change to buy the Washington Commanders. The mood around D.C. was more satisfied than ecstatic. The announcement didn’t inspire a cheering mob to gather outside the White House like the night they got Osama, or lead strangers to kiss strangers like on VE Day.

I don’t pay much attention to the Commanders’ non-football activities anymore, but this was a story I had to follow. And when mulling the roster of minority investors in Harris’s moneyed clique, one name made me happier than the others: Mark Ein.

Along with a team tennis franchise (WTT’s Washington Kastles), Ein’s portfolio includes ownership of the Washington City Paper. That’s a publication that Snyder once threatened in writing to put out of business. 

Back to me (and don't stop me if you've heard this one before): I worked at City Paper for 26 years, leaving at the end of 2011. Much of my last year there was spent alternately fighting off and laughing at Snyder’s attempts to put all my coworkers and/or me out of work. Snyder occasionally had underlings complain to my editors about something I’d written. In 2002, for example, in a post occasioned by Snyder using the 70th anniversary of the franchise to gouge fans by sticking the number 70 on every licensed item in the team store and adding a few bucks to its sticker price, I wrote a listicle of the 70 biggest fuckups of Snyder's first three years of ownership. Snyder responded by having Karl Swanson, his self-described media “henchman” and the least effective PR guy in NFL history, write to my editor and demand corrections on more than half the fuckups. He deserved and got none. 

But Snyder’d had enough of me and my workplace by November 2010, when City Paper published a compilation of 12 years of Snyder debacles, all of which I’d already reported on through the years. Snyder had the team’s chief operating officer and general counsel, D.C. attorney David Donovan, write a long and stupid letter on team letterhead threatening to sue Atalaya Capital, the New York-based hedge fund that had only recently taken ownership of City Paper through bankruptcy proceedings. 

The letter didn’t specify even one single inaccuracy from the story that had Snyder so angry, but it did have a passage that exposed him as a foolish bully. "Mr. Snyder has more than sufficient means to protect his reputation,” the letter read. “We presume that defending such litigation would not be a rational strategy for an investment fund such as yours. Indeed, the cost of litigation would presumably quickly outstrip the asset value of the Washington City Paper."

In other words, dump the writer or get sued out of existence. Lawyers for City Paper and the hedge fund kept Snyder’s letter and campaign to get me fired quiet for a couple months. Snyder, continuing his crazy ways and for reasons I still don't get, then notified the Washington Post to preserve all correspondence between me and their superstar blogger Dan Steinberg. The Post wrote a story on Feb. 1, 2011, about what was going on, headlined “[Washington Football Team] owner Dan Snyder seeks dismissal of City Paper writer.” Snyder filed his lawsuit the next day, asking in his complaint for $2 million in damages and alleging libel but again not explaining in any understandable way what was wrong with the story other than he didn't like it. He soon had five different sets of lawyers working to put me on the street and City Paper out of business. As with all Snyder endeavors, it failed. He dropped his suit in September 2011. By then he could have bought the paper for less than he spent on legal fees. 

Economic and media industry factors conspired to almost do Snyder’s dirty work for him. Washington City Paper was running on fumes when Mark Ein stepped up and took over the newspaper in late 2017. Ein has somehow kept it afloat while so many other alternative weeklies sank. And look at him now: Ein is an owner of both the newspaper Snyder failed to put out of business and Snyder’s old NFL team. 

At least, all of Washington hopes that’s the case after Friday night’s news of a deal between Snyder and Harris. But it’s not over til it’s over: Snyder only got sicced on WFT fans, remember, when the NFL in 1999 refused to accept billionaire developer Howard Milstein’s winning bid to buy the team from the estate of Jack Kent Cooke. Owners thought Milstein was too litigious to join their fraternity. Milstein denied the allegation, then hired David Boies to sue the NFL. (He lost.)

That was where Snyder and his heavily leveraged $800 million bid came in. The value of Snyder’s asset has over time outstripped his serial buffoonery by about $5.2 billion, if the $6.05 billion sales figure reported last week is true.

And, as his 2010 bully letter exposed, money is paramount in Snyder’s calculus. So even as the team went 164-220-2 under his stewardship, and even as he now stands as the least admired owner in the history of American team sports, he probably feels like he went out a winner. He'll surely be much richer when the deal closes. As long as he goes out, that's fine.

Assuming Snyder’s departure from the public eye is truly, madly, deeply upon us, that means I might not get to use the favorite journalistic disclosure of my career ever again. So, for perhaps the last time, here goes:

Disclosure: Dan Snyder once sued the author for writing mean things about him.

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