- The Washington Times
Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Washington Nationals could be for sale. So, who’s willing to drop around a couple billion dollars to buy the team?

That’s been the burning question since the news broke earlier this month that the Lerner family is exploring a sale of the Nationals. And for good reason. It’s not every day that one of the 30 Major League Baseball teams — especially the one in the nation’s capital and one that recently won a World Series — is rumored to be on the market.

It’s unclear whether the Lerners will go through with a sale, but they have hired Allen & Company, a banking firm that has aided the sale of other sports franchises like the Carolina Panthers, Houston Astros and Brooklyn Nets to research potential buyers. Mark Lerner, the son of real estate mogul Ted Lerner, told The Washington Post that the move to hire Allen & Company is “exploratory.”

However, if the Lerners stop exploring and decide to officially put the team up for sale, here are seven potential buyers who could make sense if they wanted to purchase the Nationals:

Ted Leonsis

Leonsis, 65, could secure his fourth professional sports team if he were to purchase the Nationals

Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the conglomerate led by Leonsis that controls the Capitals, Wizards and Mystics, is rumored to be an option to purchase the MLB franchise. According to 106.7 The Fan’s Jason Bishop, Leonsis has spoken with the Lerners about buying the team. 

David Rubenstein 

Shortly after the news that Leonsis may want to expand his D.C. sports empire, Forbes reported that he may have a partner in his pursuit of the MLB club. 

Rubenstein, who Forbes reports has a net worth of $4.1 billion, is the co-founder of Carlyle Group investment firm. If Rubenstein teams up with Leonsis, who Forbes projects has a net worth of $1.6 billion, it would be the Baltimore native’s first venture into professional sports. Forbes ranks the Nationals as the 12th-most valuable MLB franchise, estimating their value at $2 billion. 

Rubenstein, 72, and Leonsis are no strangers to each other. In 2018, the two teamed up with Michael Jordan — yes, that Michael Jordan — for an investment into esports group aXiomatic. 

Jeff Bezos

Well, of course. 

If he wanted to, the Amazon founder, owner of The Washington Post and second richest man in the world could easily foot the bill. Forbes estimates that Bezos is worth $170.2 billion. 

It’s unclear if Bezos would have an interest in buying the Nationals, but his obscene wealth leads his name to be thrown around whenever a pro sports team is available. He does have ties to the D.C. area, owning the largest house in D.C. — a 27,000-square-foot mansion that he bought for $23 million — and Amazon is opening its second headquarters in Arlington that is scheduled to open in 2023.

Josh Harris and David Blitzer

The heads of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment already own the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils. Harris, 57, is co-founder of private equity firm Apollo Global Management, while Blitzer, 52, is an executive of investment firm Blackstone Group. 

The group lost out on buying the New York Mets, who hedge fund manager Steve Cohen purchased in fall 2020 for a record $2.4 billion. The Mets were the sixth MLB team to change hands in the last decade, along with the Padres ($600 million in 2012), Dodgers ($2 billion in 2012), Mariners ($1.4 billion in 2016), Marlins (1.2 billion in 2017) and Royals ($1 billion in 2020). 

Jeff Zients

It wouldn’t be Zients’ first time trying to buy the Nationals.

In 2005, Zients aligned with Colin Powell and Fred Malek to buy the Nationals, eventually losing out to Lerner. Zients, 55, is the former CEO of Wall Street investment firm Cranemere and a former member of Facebook’s board of directors. 

He served as Barack Obama’s deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget and has been leading the Biden administration’s coronavirus response as an advisor to the president. He announced in March that he would be leaving the White House this month. 

Alex Rodriguez

The three-time MLB MVP put together a bid with his then-fiancee Jennifer Lopez to buy the Mets in 2020 but lost out to Cohen. The Nationals don’t have the New York appeal, but maybe Rodriguez still has the itch to own an MLB team.

In 2021, just months after his bid to buy the Mets failed, Rodriguez and former Walmart e-commerce CEO Marc Lore joined forces to buy the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves for $1.5 billion. 

Rodriguez wouldn’t be the first former Yankee to help purchase an MLB team. In 2017, Derek Jeter was part of a group led by Bruce Sherman that bought the Marlins. However, earlier this year, Jeter stepped down as CEO of the team and sold his 4% stake in the franchise.

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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