A strange offer from former Duke and Minnesota Timberwolves basketball player Brian Davis came in at the last minute after Dan Snyder and the Washington Commanders agreed to sell the team to Josh Harris and his investment group for just over $6 billion.
Davis purports to offer Snyder $7 billion in cash, with the first billion coming within 24 hours of the deal being approved and the rest coming within seven days, according to WUSA9. Any offer, including the Harris investment group offer, cannot be finalized even after its been accepted until the owners agree to the deal in a vote, which is expected to come in an owner’s meeting in Minneapolis from May 22-24.
That makes any offer Snyder accepts a non-exclusive offer, which allows other potential buyers to put in their offers if those bids meet muster. The Bank of America engaged other bidders, according to the report, to see if they would move forward with their offers.
Davis is also offering to indemnify Snyder, meaning that Davis and the Commanders would take on any legal liability incurred by Snyder for any actions involving the Commanders. That’s strange enough – the NFL balked at Snyder’s demand for indemnity back in February, and no other owners have reportedly offered that condition.
That’s not all that’s strange.
Who is Brian Davis?
Davis played a critical role in Duke Basketball’s 1991 and 1992 championship runs, first as a role player with over 20 minutes a game, then as a starter eclipsing 30 minutes a game. He was a second-round draft pick for the Phoenix Suns before being traded to the Timberwolves, where he played for one season at just 5.5 minutes per game.
Davis grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, before attending Duke on a basketball scholarship and settled into the Washington, D.C. area after his playing career.
What is Brian Davis’ Business Background?
He and fellow Duke alum Christian Laettner have been involved in a number of business ventures together following his basketball career, which is where the questions first begin to emerge. It’s not exactly clear how Davis accumulated enough cash – or assets that can be flipped for cash – for him to provide an offer for an NFL team.
Laettner and Davis have been under civil investigation several times in connection with their business ventures. In 2006, both Laettner and Davis attempted to buy the Memphis Grizzlies for $252 million, securing loans from a number of investors, including Scottie Pippen. That deal failed to materialize, and Pippen sued them to recover his money after only paying back about half of the loan.
This was not Laettner and Davis’ only venture into team ownership. In 2007 they and several others founded D.C. United Holdings, which purchased the rights to D.C. United, the MLS team for $33 million. Davis and Laettner were minority owners. In May of 2009, 98 percent of the company was sold to majority shareholder Will Chang with the remaining two percent held by Davis and Laettner, who sold their stake in October of that year. Chang would go on to sell shares of the team in 2012 and 2016 at valuations of $50 million.
In all likelihood, this resulted in a payout of under $1 million for the two of them combined for their ownership stake in D.C. United Holdings.
Brian Davis Has Been Sued For Failure to Pay Back Loans Several Times
In 2007, they were sued over a $200,000 loan that they settled out of court for a loan they took out as part of their real estate venture, Blue Devil Ventures (BDV).
In 2009, J.D. Holdings sued BDV along with both Davis and Laettner for breach of contract after J.D. Holdings lent BDV $500,000 for the development of property in Baltimore, Maryland. They did not repay the loan after it had been extended, and both Davis and Laettner personally guaranteed the loan.
Neither Davis nor Laettner appeared in court after service, and J.D. Holdings engaged them to personally resolve the now $671,000 debt, where the two of them agreed to pay back the loan as part of the terms of the settlement. They failed to meet those terms and were taken to court again and failed to appear again. They narrowly avoided jail time for contempt of court.
That suit is separate from another case brought against them in 2009 involving former NFL player Shawne Merriman, who alleged that the duo stopped making payments on a loan they took from him in 2007.
At some point, Laettner and Davis formed a second company, BDV III, as part of a second investment group with other real estate moguls.
The centerpiece of their real estate ventures was a series of properties in downtown Durham, North Carolina, called West Village, which may have been used to secure their loans. One property remained vacant for years before it was sold off for just under $10 million. This would constitute a loss, as they originally paid $11.1 million for the property and then took out a second loan worth just as much.
Other West Village properties incurred significant debt as well, and they had defaulted on a 2006 loan worth $26 million in connection with those properties.
In 2016, Laettner sued his company – BDV III – to recover additional assets from the sale, and he personally had four times as much debt as he had value in assets.
Outside of BDV, Davis has continued to invest in real estate and, in 2016, committed to developing a property in Atlantic City, his hometown, into a green mixed-use development with retail stores, at least 600 rental units, and a boardwalk. Davis indicated that the fastest timeline for development would see ground break on it within six months of the purchase.
Brian Davis’ Real Estate Dealings Are Opaque
As of November 2021, five years later, there are no visual indications of any development on the described waterfront property. The lots on Riverside and Route 30, within view of Harrah’s and several windmills are empty. There are no apparent rental listings or high-occupancy housing listed for the property either.
That 2016 purchase is the first mention of the name of the company similar to one mentioned in the WUSA9 story on Davis’ potential purchase, Urban Echo. However, the WUSA9 story refers to a different company, Urban Echo Energy. There are a number of businesses filed under the name Urban Echo in New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia, with eight such entities registered as “Urban Echo Energy” in Delaware and another one in Virginia.
All eight of the Delaware entities were formed earlier this year, while the Virginia entity was formed last year.
There are very few stories in newspaper archives that mention the company by name or in connection to Davis before this recent report, which makes it all the more unusual that the WUSA9 report indicates that investors “realized” that Davis had $50 billion in assets to his name in the form of company assets and intellectual property.
The fact that Davis tendered an offer in cash in two installments is even more unusual, as deals like this typically do not come with completely liquid assets.
If Davis sold shares of his company at a certain price, it could certainly “earn” a valuation after filing the sale – indicating that the company overall could be worth several billion dollars. But the NFL and Bank of America would have to determine whether or not these shares were bought with an earnest valuation or if the price was manipulated in some way.
The worst outcome would be if Snyder himself found a way to encourage an offer that raised the valuation of the Commanders and provided him indemnity, though there is no evidence that Snyder or anyone associated with him has done such a thing.
The report also indicates that Davis intends to bring green development processes into his Commanders’ bid, backed by his company. Further reporting from WUSA9 suggests that Urban Echo Energy is LEED-certified, though that name and similar names do not appear in the U.S. Green Building Council directory, which manages LEED certification for projects and organizations.
All told, this is an unusual offer, and it would be surprising if the NFL or Bank of America approved of the deal. At any rate, getting a formal offer in will allow the NFL to review the financials in more detail and audit Davis’ solvency.
This may have happened before, with the most famous incident potentially involving President Donald Trump. The NFL turned down an offer from Trump when he offered to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014, and later testimony from attorney Michael Cohen indicated that Trump had inflated the value of his assets in order to secure financing for the deal, ballooning his net worth from $4.6 billion in 2012 to $8.7 billion in 2013.
While a rejection of a potential Davis deal wouldn’t carry the same narrative weight as the Trump rejection, it is entirely possible that something similar is at play.