On Monday, Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post reported that the Lerner Family, the owners of the Washington Nationals MLB team, is exploring options on the future of its ownership of the franchise. They haven’t ruled out selling the team either after purchasing the team for about $450 million in 2006.
After the news of this potential sale of the Nationals, there were rumors that Monumental Sports CEO and principal partner Ted Leonsis was in preliminary discussions to buy the team from the Lerners. Leonsis already has business ties with the Lerner family, because the Lerners are minority partners in Monumental Sports. This came out last Tuesday during a radio segment of The Sports Junkies’ morning show on 106.7 WJFK-FM and NBC Sports Washington. During that broadcast, Jason Bishop, one of the hosts, was clear in saying that nothing is imminent, though these discussions have happened.
It would make sense that Leonsis would be interested in the team because he is very sports-minded. MSE, his biggest investment owns the Washington Wizards, Mystics, Capitals, Wizards Digital Gaming, Capital City Go-Go and Capital One Arena. But Leonsis has a net worth of about $1.6 billion, which is in many investments besides MSE. He only owned about 40 percent of MSE after Emerson Collective President Laurene Powell Jobs, who is worth about $17.1 billion, became MSE’s second-biggest shareholder in 2017.
Let’s assume Leonsis actually wants to buy the Nationals. Since the Nats are worth approximately $2 billion, Leonsis will need a combination of more investors and/or see some of his MSE investors willing to chip in money for the Nationals. And he will have to consider whether the baseball team becomes part of MSE. At first glance, that makes sense because the Nats are a sports team. But adding more investors can dilute Leonsis’s interest in it. And it’s unclear whether all of the existing MSE investors want or can afford to take the Nationals in without diluting their existing interests more than they would like. Leonsis could also work with investors to back a Nationals purchase that forms a group separate from MSE.
And now, here’s where there’s some clarity on what a Leonsis purchase of the Nationals may look like.
According to Mike Ozanian of Forbes, Leonsis is considering teaming up with David Rubenstein, Chairman of The Carlyle Group to make a bid for the Nats. Rubenstein is worth about $4 billion according to Forbes. It’s very premature to say how their hypothetical ownership of the Nationals would look, such as whether they become part of MSE. But it’s clear that Leonsis is making sure there are some other big investors who have a net worth larger than he does for this kind of a deal.
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