Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner announced earlier this year that his family plans to sell the MLB team. We have not heard a whole lot about that in recent months. Until now.
According to The Athletic, a group led by Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is the clear front-runner to acquire the Nationals from Lerner and his family.
“One of the sources said Leonsis’ group has been ahead of the others for the last month or so. Multiple sources, though, said a sale is not imminent. It would not likely be completed before MLB’s Winter Meetings in San Diego in December, leaving the possibility for the sale to not be concluded until 2023.”Report on potential Washington Nationals sale
Leonsis, 65, became majority owner of the Wizards back in 2010. He had purchased the NHL’s Capitals more than a decade prior. Under his leadership, Washington earned the Stanley Cup title back in 2018. He has not been anywhere near as successful with the Wizards despite doling out a ton of cash in an attempt to keep that NBA franchise relevant.
According to the report, Leonsis’ group is being co-led by Carlisle Group co-founder and billionaire David Rubenstein. He’s said to have a net worth of $3.1 billion with Forbes listing Leonsis’ net worth at $1.6 billion. Leonsis’s subsidies also include the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and Capital One Arena, the home of both the Wizards and Capitals.
If Leonsis’ group is picked to buy the Nationals, he’d become just the second individual to own teams in three of the four major North American professional sports leagues.
Related: Evaluating potential cost, candidates and long-term outlook for the Washington Nationals
Washington Nationals potential going rate and Ted Leonsis
According to Forbes, the Washington Nationals are valued at $2 billion, the 12th-highest among MLB teams right now. The latest MLB team to be sold was the Kansas City Royals, who went to businessman John Sherman for just $1 billion back in 2020. The Royals were valued at $1.025 billion at the time, the second-lowest figure in MLB.
Steve Cohen purchased the New York Mets for $2.475 billion later that year. The Mets were valued at $2.4 billion at the time of the sale.
It stands to reason that the Washington Nationals will end up going for more than $2 billion based on their projected value and the indicators listed above.
As for Ted Leonsis and his group, their connections in D.C. and work within the community could play a vital role in getting ownership approval should a sale go through. Rubenstein is currently serving as Chairman of the Boards at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Gallary of Art and the Economic Club of Washington. He also chairs the Board at the University of Chicago.
If Leonsis were to acquire the Washington Nationals, he’d have a lot of work to do. The team is coming off a league-worst 55-107 season and just dealt away franchise cornerstone Juan Soto. The Nationals do have a foundation within the decision-making process after picking up the 2023 options for manager Davey Martinez and general manager Mike Rizzo.
The Washington metro area exists as the ninth-largest media market in the United States. It can host a high-payroll team. It’s also something that isn’t foreign to Leonsis. His Washington Wizards entered the 2022-23 season with the fifth-higest payroll in the NBA ($187.74 million) and just signed star guard Bradley Beal to a record-breaking $251 million contract.
Leonsis himself had previously sought out the purchase of the Baltimore Orioles.