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Sunday, June 16, 2024

MLB Jumps Into Dispute Hindering Nationals’ Sale

  • The MASN regional sports network presents an impediment to a Washington Nationals sale.
  • The Orioles own 77% of the RSN.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball is stepping in to help clear up the biggest unresolved question pertaining to a sale of the Washington Nationals.

The league is seeking to bring clarity to a contentious situation regarding the Nationals’ and Baltimore Orioles’ shared Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, according to the Washington Post.

  • The Orioles own around 77% of the regional sports network, with the Nationals holding the balance, part of an arrangement established when the Montreal Expos moved to the Orioles’ region in 2005 and renamed the Nationals.
  • In 2019, an arbitrator sided with the Nationals, ruling that MASN owes the team $105 million in unpaid rights fees. MASN is appealing that decision.

A sale could present an opportunity to renegotiate the MASN deal, but it’s unclear how willing the Orioles are to part with their majority share. 

The O’s have contract language on their side: A 2005 settlement between the team and MLB states that “​​the assumption of the Nationals’ obligations under this agreement shall be made a binding condition of the purchase of the Nationals’ franchise.”

Leonsis in the Lead

While a handful of well-heeled individuals and groups have shown interest in the Nationals, it is believed that Washington Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics owner Ted Leonsis is the frontrunner.

Leonsis’ group, which includes Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, has had talks with the investment bank managing the sale. 

The team could also opt to sell a minority stake, which could include a future option to buy a majority share.

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