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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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An About-Face in D.C. As Lerners Pull Nationals From the Market

  • MLB club no longer for sale as ownership family changes course.
  • The Nationals remain deeply intertwined with the Lerners’ long-running real estate business.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in a year, an MLB club that had been for sale has been pulled off the market. 

Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner and his family are no longer entertaining offers for all or part of the team, according to The Washington Post, ending an exploration of a sale in place since early 2022.

“We’ve just decided that it’s not the time or place for it,” Lerner told the Post. “We’re very happy owning the team and bringing us back a ring one day.”

The Lerner family’s decision follows that of Angels owner Arte Moreno, who early last year said he “just couldn’t go through” with a sale of that franchise. 

The Nationals’ situation, however, arrives with a particular set of circumstances. Billionaire private equity executive David Rubenstein, who was rumored to be interested in buying the Nationals, is instead buying the Orioles. Rubenstein previously sought to partner on the Nationals deal with Washington Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics owner Ted Leonsis, who is now grappling with rising complications with his planned Alexandria, Va., arena and mixed-use development.

The Rubenstein deal in Baltimore, meanwhile, is being seen as a potential catalyst for solving the long-running impasse around the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. The regional sports network is co-owned by the Orioles and Nationals, with the Orioles holding a supermajority share, and a prior dispute over rights fees extended for more than a decade. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently suggested that Rubenstein’s arrival could spark bigger changes to MASN’s structure, saying “change always produces an opportunity.”

The Lerners also own a series of commercial and residential properties near Nationals Park, creating a deeper tie between the club and the family’s long-running real estate business, which like others in that industry was battered during the pandemic. The Nationals have an estimated value of $2 billion.

But the clan additionally faces rising unrest from fans who have seen four straight losing seasons and steadily falling payrolls since the Nationals’ World Series title in 2019, coupled with the departure of stars such as Trea Turner, Juan Soto, and Max Scherzer. 

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