- The Washington Times
Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Ted Leonsis already owns three professional sports teams in the District, but he may be looking to add one more.

According to a report from the Washington Post, the Wizards, Capitals and Mystics owner is interested in buying the Washington Nationals — a development that was rumored shortly after the Lerner family put the MLB franchise on the market earlier this year.

Leonsis is one of the handful of suitors who has been given the rights to see the Nationals’ financials before making a bid, according to the Post. The Lerners are reportedly expecting bids from prospective buyers by the end of the regular season.

Other names that have been linked to the Nationals include Freedom Mortgage CEO Stanley Middleman, South Korean billionaire Michael B. Kim and Larry Lucchino, a longtime MLB executive and former president of the Orioles, Red Sox and Padres.

The process began in April when Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner, who took over day-to-day operations from his father, Ted, in 2018, announced that his family would be exploring a sale of the franchise it has owned since 2006.

Ted Lerner purchased the Nationals for $450 million after MLB relocated the club from Montreal to the District. Forbes estimated earlier this year that the Nationals were the 12th-most valuable MLB franchise with a value of $2 billion.

But the Nationals aren’t all that Leonsis wants to gobble up. On Tuesday, the CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment acquired television partner NBC Sports Washington.

MSE already owned 33% of NBC Sports Washington after acquiring the chunk in 2016, but Tuesday’s purchase accounts for a full takeover of the regional TV partner. The purchase amount for the other 67% of NBC Sports Washington from Comcast’s NBCUniversal was not released by MSE on Tuesday.

“We at Monumental Sports & Entertainment are incredibly excited to have reached an agreement to acquire NBC Sports Washington, an important business for our current and future core business operations,” said Zach Leonsis, MSE’s president of media and new enterprises, in a press release. “Comcast NBCUniversal has built a strong regional sports network in NBC Sports Washington. We look forward to further enhancing and innovating on the already best-in-class experience that our fanbase enjoys of watching live sports, for years to come.”

With MASN carrying Nationals and Orioles games, NBC Sports Washington focuses more on Monumental’s teams as the exclusive local TV rightsholder for Wizards and Capitals games.

According to Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, the sale is a one-off, as Comcast is “not looking to unload its other RSNs.” Ourand also reported that the deal occurred because Leonsis was “an aggressive and willing buyer.”

Leonsis’ reported interest in the Nationals wasn’t the only news about MLB ownership on Tuesday. In fact, there may be less competition for Leonsis now than there was a day ago after Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno announced he is considering selling the team he’s owned since 2003.

“It has been a great honor and privilege to own the Angels for 20 seasons. As an Organization, we have worked to provide our fans an affordable and family-friendly ballpark experience while fielding competitive lineups which included some of the game’s all-time greatest players,” Moreno said in a statement.

“Although this difficult decision was entirely our choice and deserved a great deal of thoughtful consideration, my family and I have ultimately come to the conclusion that now is the time. Throughout this process, we will continue to run the franchise in the best interest of our fans, employees, players, and business partners.”

Moreno, the only non-White controlling owner in Major League Baseball as a Mexican-American, purchased the team from Disney for $184 million in 2003 — one year after the franchise won its only World Series. Forbes estimates that the Angels are worth $2.2 billion.
After Moreno’s announcement, many baseball fans wondered how this would impact the future of superstars Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani and their futures in Los Angeles. Trout signed a 12-year, $426.5 million contract with the Angels in 2019, while Ohtani has one year of arbitration remaining before hitting free agency after the 2023 campaign.

The Angels have largely struggled under Moreno, with only six playoff appearances since 2003, one since 2010 and none since 2015.
Another MLB team has also been in the rumor mill this summer about the future of its ownership, and that’s the Nationals’ neighbors up the beltway.

Orioles CEO John Angelos — son of Peter Angelos, who spearheaded the investment group that purchased the team in 1993 — has said publicly that he wants his family to keep control of the team. But his brother, Louis Angelos, has sued John Angelos and their mother, alleging that John wants to move the team to Tennessee. The Orioles are valued at $1.4 billion, per Forbes.

Six MLB teams have changed hands since 2012. The most recent sale was in fall 2020 when hedge fund manager Steve Cohen purchased the New York Mets for a record $2.4 billion.

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

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