The Washington Commanders sale to the Josh Harris group could be completed in the next "month to two months at the most," Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, a member of the NFL's finance committee, said after meeting with Harris and one of his partners, Mitchell Rales, in New York on Wednesday.
"We're not done yet," Irsay said, "but we're making progress ... It was a good meeting."
Harris and Rales met with the eight-member finance committee for the first time at NFL headquarters late Wednesday afternoon. It was yet another step in what both sides hope leads to a completion of the sale. On May 12, Harris entered into a signed exclusive deal with owners Dan and Tanya Snyder to buy the team for $6.05 billion.
"It's going well," Irsay said. "I'm hopeful because of their inspired aspect and their enthusiasm and their track record that they're really committing, saying, 'Well if that doesn't work then I'll make it right. Either way, we're going to make it right.' So we're just trying to work through those final details. And I'm hopeful that we'll be able to. I would imagine something in mid to late July would be the earliest we'd call it league meeting."
One source said last week that Harris had been in discussions with the league, working on getting the offer in compliance over the past couple weeks. There had been optimism a deal would be approved, multiple sources said, in part because each side is highly motivated -- the Harris group, the NFL and the Snyders.
A spokesman for Harris declined comment on Wednesday's meeting.
Once the finance committee approves the offer, it would recommend other owners vote in favor. Twenty four of the league's 32 owners would need to vote to approve the offer. Last year, the committee approved Denver's sale to the Walton family July 27; the vote was taken Aug. 9.
Irsay and the finance committee have made it clear to Harris that the deal must be in compliance with NFL guidelines. Irsay and others expressed concern about Harris' offer at the owners' meetings last month in Minneapolis. There has been concern over the debt load -- the NFL does not want owners to take on more than $1.1 billion in debt -- and the amount of equity in the deal.
Irsay said he did not have a problem with the size of Harris' group. There are 20 limited partners -- five below the maximum amount allowed.
"They complied with the rules," Irsay said of the limited partners' size.
But he reiterated that the league would not alter the financial rules for a new owner, a point he hammered home last month. Others, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Dallas owner Jerry Jones, echoed that sentiment.
While the owners are anxious to move on from Snyder, according to multiple league sources, they also want to make sure the deal is a good one for the league. Irsay said Harris told them his group is worth nearly $100 billion, emphasizing their financial strength. He said Harris and Rales were fine with needing to be in compliance with the debt acquisition figure, but asked them to work with them "particularly from a taxation standpoint."
Irsay said they told Harris and Rales they "of course" would work with them -- but they're not going to set a precedent of bending rules. He said both Harris and Rales were committed to getting it in compliance.
"They know it can't be smoke and mirrors," Irsay said. "They've committed to make it. That's reasonable. I'm optimistic that can get done. It's a complicated deal. I've just seen these things fall apart when you're just trying to dot an I and cross a T. I mean it's unusual, but if you stay in business long enough, unfortunately, one thing's for sure: No deal is done until it's done. And I think in this case, there's every reason to believe compliance will be there because they know that's a must. They know we would say, 'Hey, sorry, no deal.'"
The meeting also was a chance, as one source familiar with the owners' thinking said, for the group to get a "better understanding for the person. Most of these guys have never met him before."
The Snyders put the team up for sale in November after a tumultuous previous three years, involving multiple investigations into the franchise's workplace culture and also their financial dealings. Dan Snyder remains under investigation by attorney Mary Jo White. A source said the findings of that report could be released prior to any vote on Harris becoming the Commanders' next owner. Goodell has said the report will be made public whenever it's completed.