Daniel Snyder: From Teenage Entrepreneur to Sports Mogul

Daniel Snyder
Daniel Snyder, owner and chairman of the board of the Washington Redskins, speaking at the National Press Club. Credit: Jim Wallace (Smithsonian Institution)

Daniel Snyder is an American businessman who started his entrepreneurial career as a teenager. Most well-known as being the controlling owner of the Washington Football Team of the National Football League (NFL), he previously founded Snyder Communications LP alongside his sister.

 

However, his business activities don’t end there. Dan Snyder is the owner of the Johnny Rockets hospitality chain and an amusement park and theme park operator. Since rising to fame, he has founded notable charitable organizations.

Background

 

Daniel Snyder was born in Maryland in 1964 to Jewish parents Arlette and Gerald Seymour ‘Gerry’ Snyder. His dad was a freelance writer, having written for both the United Press International and National Geographic.

 

Up until the age of 12, he attended Hillandale Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland, after which he moved to  Henley-on-Thames, near London, to be educated at a private school.

 

Two years later, he returned to the United States, and lived with his grandmother in Queens, New York for a year. Dan Snyder got his first job at the age of 14, working at the B. Dalton bookstore. After that, he and his family moved back to Maryland and he graduated from Charles W. Woodward High School.

 

As a young boy, Dan Snyder was interested in football and inherited his passion for the Washington Redskins from his father. During the fall, the pair would spend their  Sunday afternoons attending games at the RFK Stadium, where the team formerly played.

 

A born entrepreneur, Dan Snyder partnered with his father at the age of 17 to sell bus-trip packages to Washington Capitals fans for a game in Philadelphia. Three years later, he began his own business after dropping out of the University of Maryland.

 

The business leased jets to college students who were going on vacation for spring break. Daniel Snyder, alongside a friend, ran the company completely out of his parents’ bedroom. He reports that he made more than $1 million from the travel venture.

 

In 1994, Dan Snyder married Tanya Ivey, a former fashion model. The couple has two daughters and a son together. All of their children now attend a private school in Bethesda, Maryland. Back in 2008, Tanya was treated for breast cancer and underwent surgery for the illness at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic. Off the back of that experience, she has since become an advocate and spokesperson for breast cancer awareness.

Career and Accomplishments

 

Daniel Snyder teamed up with his sister, Michelle, in 1989 to launch a wallboard advertising business called Snyder Communications LP. The pair sold advertising space on boards within buildings. The venture was funded by Snyder’s dad, who took out a second mortgage and his sister, who used credit cards for seed money.

 

Unlike market competitors, the wallboard business combined traditional advertising with samples, such as free soaps or medicine. Over the years, the company grew and expanded into different avenues of marketing, both traditional and database marketing.

 

In 1991, the business reportedly made $2.7 million, a product that had grown to $4.1 million by the next year, and $9 million by 1993. By that point, Snyder Communications LP moved into telemarketing and was targeting the immigrant market specifically. The company offered a broad spectrum of marketing activities including proprietary product sampling, sponsored information in prime locations, field sales, and more.

 

The success of Snyder Communications LP was grand and by the age of 32, Daniel Snyder became the youngest ever CEO of a New York Stock Exchange-listed company. Early investors included Barry Diller and Dan Lufkin, a renowned New York investor.

 

At this point, Daniel Snyder gave Mortimer Zuckerman and Fred Drasner shares in his company to repay them for a previous business investment. His parents also had shares in the company, which they sold for more than $60 million.

 

After this investment, Dan Snyder continued to grow the business. By 1998, the business was reportedly worth $1 billion in annual revenues and was employing more than 12,000 staff members. Two years later, Daniel Snyder sold his enterprise to the French marketing group Havas in the largest transaction in the history of the advertising industry. It is estimated that Daniel Snyder’s personal share of the proceeds was up to $300 million.

 

When the former owner of the Redskins (now the Washington Football Team) Jack Kent Cooke died in 1999, Daniel Snyder bought the team and its stadium for $800 million. Most of the deal was financed using borrowed money with $155 million debt assumed by the stadium. Dan Snyder also reportedly borrowed 340 million from Société Générale.

 

To help settle these debates, he later sold 15% of the team to a real estate developer called Dwight Schar, another 15% to Florida financier Robert Rothman, and a final 5% to Frederick W. Smith, the founder of FedEx. That left Dan Snyder with 65% of the company. The stadium is now renamed as the FedExField. Since taking on the sporting team, the annual revenue has increased greatly from $100 million a year to $245 million in 2005.

 

Thanks to his successes in the area, Daniel Snyder is now part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Toward the late 2010s, he started sitting on committees including the Broadcast Committee, the Digital Media Committee, and the Business Ventures Committee. What’s more, he is also a member of the Greater Washington Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Philanthropy

 

Over the years, Dan Snyder has become known for his philanthropy. After the September 11 attacks, he donated $1 million to help the victims and those affected. Similarly, after Hurricane Katrina, he donated $600,000 to help the victims. He has also paid for charitable food shipping for victims of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and Thailand.

 

Aside from these donations, Daniel Snyder has also founded his own organizations. In the year 2000, he started the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation. Later, 2014, he started the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, an organization that offers opportunities and resources to people in tribal and Native American communities.