Earvin “Magic” Johnson has joined the bidding for the Washington Commanders as part of a group led by 76ers and Devils co-owner Josh Harris, according multiple people familiar with negotiations.
The former NBA star and notable sports investor was also part of Harris’s failed bid for the NFL’s Denver Broncos last year. He is providing both money and expertise to the Commanders bid, said the people, who were granted anonymity because the details are private. The group is one of a handful still in talks with current owner Dan Snyder, who is exploring a possible sale amid numerous accusations and investigations into financial impropriety and a hostile work environment.
After being relatively stagnant for the last few months, Commanders negotiations have progressed over the last week, and it’s possible a deal could be reached ahead of NFL owners meetings in Arizona at the end of the month. That would be welcome news across much of the league and among the owners of its other 31 franchises, who have talked about the unprecedented step of forcing Snyder out.
It’s unclear how much capital Johnson is contributing to the group. A representative for Harris declined to comment. Johnson didn’t immediately respond to a text message.
Harris, Co-founder of Apollo Global Management, is worth $7.3 billion, according to Bloomberg. His sports portfolio includes Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (which owns the Devils, 76ers and the Prudential Center) and a piece of English soccer club Crystal Palace. His Commanders bid group also includes Danaher (NYSE: DHR) co-founder Mitchell Rales, who is worth $6.6 billion.
The NFL has just a handful of black minority owners—including John Stallworth in Pittsburgh and Warrick Dunn in Atlanta—and the league has faced increased pressure in recent years to diversify its ranks. The most recent team to sell, the Denver Broncos, was purchased by a group that included former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ariel Investments co-CEO Mellody Hobson, both of whom are black.
Johnson is no stranger to sports ownership. In 2011, when the Los Angeles Dodgers were for sale, Johnson joined the bid group led by Guggenheim executives. Johnson put in $50 million of his own money, a relatively small contribution to a successful bid that eventually topped $2 billion, but he played an outsized role representing the group publicly. Sportico now values the Dodgers at $5.24 billion.
The 63-year-old Johnson has found other business success since retiring from the NBA in 1996. In addition to the Dodgers, he’s made lucrative moves into real estate, and has franchised movie theaters, Starbucks stores, fast food and gyms. He’s a Fanatics board member, and an investor in the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, esports organization aXiomatic and MLS team LAFC, which is the league’s most valuable club, according to Sportico.