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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Ted Leonsis Still Wants to Buy the Nationals, Add to D.C. Portfolio

  • Any Nationals sale comes intertwined with a messy D.C. regional sports network situation.
  • Leonsis already owns the Capitals, Mystics, and Wizards. 
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ted Leonsis may not take no for an answer—he’s still interested in buying the Nationals. 

Leonsis, the CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment (which owns the Wizards, Mystics, and Capitals), originally tried to buy MLB’s Washington, D.C., franchise from the Lerner family for $2 billion, in 2023, before the Lerners decided to keep the team. On Wednesday, he told The Washington Post that he remains interested in adding the baseball team to his local sports empire. 

Leonsis hinted at the same notion in April when he told Front Office Sports Today, “We have a lot on the plate, but we have conversations all the time because the Lerners and [Monumental] are close. … They know my intentions, and at some point we’ll reengage.”

Should Leonsis acquire the team at some point, he would own every major professional sports team in the D.C. area aside from MLS’s D.C. United and the Washington Commanders, which sold to Josh Harris and David Blitzer in December 2023

The Lerners originally expressed an interest in selling the Nationals in April 2022, before deciding this February the team was no longer for sale. The Post has since reported that people around the Lerners believe the family will again consider selling after the ’24 baseball season, if the right situation emerges.

From a business perspective, the Nationals fit right into Leonsis’s portfolio and could solve an issue that has stuck with the Nationals since they arrived in the nation’s capital, in 2005: regional broadcast rights. When the Nats slid into the Baltimore Orioles’ television territory, MLB struck a compromise by giving the Orioles the Nats’ television rights in perpetuity. Thus started a nearly 20-year arbitration battle between the two teams, with the O’s fighting nearly every dollar they owe their National League neighbors. 

That arrangement could have previously been a challenge in the Lerners’ selling the team, but the Orioles’ recent change in ownership, from the Angelos family to David Rubenstein, offers hope of a resolution. Leonsis previously partnered with Rubenstein on a bid to buy the Nationals, giving them a previous relationship. And Leonsis also owns Monumental Sports Network, which broadcasts games for his current portfolio of teams, giving the Nationals a natural home should the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network mess get resolved.

“We need to have scale so that we can compete with the New Yorks and the L.A.s as a community,” Leonsis told the Post. “Having winter programming—Caps and Wizards—and then summer programming—the baseball team and the women’s basketball team—and owning the venues, I think we can compete from a business standpoint, from a revenue standpoint, with those really big markets. In baseball, you really need to have a big base of revenues to be able to afford putting great lineups out there.”

Since taking control of the Orioles shortly before the start of this season, Rubenstein has expressed a desire to resolve the longstanding MASN conflict. Doing so could help the Lerner family inch closer to getting the $2.4 billion price Steve Cohen paid for the Mets in 2020, which is said to have been their previous target.

“I think all of baseball, and all the fans of Baltimore and Washington, would like to see this resolved in a friendly, amicable way in the near future,” Rubenstein told the Post in March. “And that’s my goal.”

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