FedEx bails on Commanders naming-rights deal

FedEx severed its naming-rights ties with the Washington Commanders, ending their agreement two years early by taking advantage of the team's change in ownership.

The remaining two years were worth approximately $15 million in revenue to Washington. The Commanders, who on Tuesday announced $75 million in upgrades and improvements to their stadium, now must find another sponsor.

According to Forbes, Washington generated $545 million in revenue last season.

While the move caught the team by surprise, according to multiple sources, the Commanders have been quietly seeking a new partnership for the past two months. Per the opt-out clause based on the ownership change, FedEx had to inform the team of its intentions before the end of the season, which the company did. A group led by Josh Harris purchased the team from Dan Snyder in July.

The franchise has been looking for a new stadium site. The team's agreement with Prince George's County to play at its current home expires in September 2027 though it can be extended. Multiple sources have said it's possible the Commanders won't open a new stadium until 2030. They are considering venues in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Washington's quest to find a new naming rights partner could take several more months at least, one source said. But it's possible the franchise can generate much more than what it would have received from FedEx if a new partner also secures rights to the next stadium. Allegiant Airlines reportedly pays the Las Vegas Raiders $20 million per year for naming rights on their stadium, which opened in 2020.

FedEx signed a 27-year deal worth $205 million in 1999 for the naming rights. FedEx has a separate partnership with the team that will remain in place.

In a statement, a team spokesperson said, "We thank FedEx Corporation for its longstanding naming rights sponsorship and their work with our team and community and look forward to their continued partnership within the Commanders family. We have already started the process of identifying our next stadium naming rights partner -- a partner who will play a crucial role in ushering in the next era of not only Commanders football, but also a robust slate of top live events and concerts."

The team has generated momentum with new sponsorships, including Anheuser-Busch and Verizon, since Harris bought the team. The Commanders have increased attendance as well: Washington averaged 63,950 fans this past season compared to 58,106 in 2022. Two years ago the Commanders averaged 52,751.

This offseason Washington hired new general manager Adam Peters and new coach Dan Quinn. The Commanders own the No. 2 pick in the draft, in addition to five picks in the first 100, and have approximately $78 million in available cap space -- among the highest in the NFL.

FedEx chairman Fred Smith, a former minority partner of the team, ended on poor terms with Snyder, who bought the team in 1999.

Smith, and FedEx, pressured Snyder to change the previous name of the team, releasing a statement in 2020 that said, "We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name." The team eventually complied, under pressure from multiple sponsors.

In November 2020, amid an NFL investigation into Snyder and the franchise's workplace culture, Smith and two other minority partners with Washington wanted to sell their shares in the team. One group of investors offered $900 million for their shares, which totaled approximately 40%. But Snyder wanted to match the offer for two of the minority partners -- Smith and Bob Rathman -- but not Dwight Schar.

Four months later the NFL granted Snyder a $450 million debt waiver and he bought out his three partners for $875 million. He sold the team to Harris for $6.05 billion.

"FedEx is a longtime sponsor of multiple sports leagues, properties, and teams," FedEx said in a statement. "We continuously review our marketing programs to ensure our investments are aligned with our evolving business objectives. As part of this review, we have decided to not continue as the naming rights sponsor of FedExField as we focus on our broader NFL sponsorship and opportunities that reflect our global footprint. We believe the future is bright for the Washington Commanders, and we look forward to watching the team evolve under their new ownership."