Washington minority owners take dispute to court

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The NFL very much prefers keeping all family business within the family. The minority owners of the Washington Football Team recently have defied protocol.

According to the New York Times, Fred Smith, Robert Rothman, and Dwight Schar have filed a lawsuit aimed at securing the ability to sell their shares collectively.

Per the report, they claim in their filing in United States District Court in Maryland that they’ve received an offer of $900 million for their combined interest in the team.

Majority owner Daniel Snyder has a right of first refusal as to each of the minority shares. He has exercised his ability to do so as to Smith and Rothman, but not as to Schar. This makes only Schar’s 15-percent share available to be sold elsewhere.

The minority partners believe that Snyder can’t pick and choose which partial shares to purchase, and that he must buy all that are for sale or none. They contend that their window for negotiating with someone who would buy all minority shares expires on November 25.

Ultimately, the rights and responsibilities will be determined by the operative contractual documents, the relevant facts, and the applicable law as interpreted by someone in a black robe. It seems odd on the surface that Smith and Rothman wouldn’t just take advantage of the opportunity to get out, even if it means selling the shares to Snyder. Schar can keep trying to find a buyer for his 15 percent, and if Snyder doesn’t want to match any offer Schar receives, Schar can sell.

While it seems like it should be simple, nothing ever is simple when billionaires go to court. Reality takes a backseat to the will of men who are used to getting what they want, especially since they typically surround themselves with people who tell them what they want to hear. Otherwise, they’ll find people who will.