Ted Leonsis tightens his grasp on Washington Sports & Entertainment
By Anna Jacoby
The purchase of the Washington Wizards basketball franchise by Ted Leonsis‘s Lincoln Holdings has been approved by the NBA Board of Governors. Leonsis bought the portion of Washington Sports & Entertainment from the Pollin family (the late Abe Pollin financed and opened the Verizon Center in 1997). According to The Washington Post, the deal – valued at approximately $550 million – will grant Leonsis with the remaining 56 percent of Washington Sports & Entertainment that he did not already own. With Washington’s fortune having been awarded the No.1 pick in the NBA draft (beginning July 1), Leonsis will have influence over player selection. Leonsis also owns the Washington Capitals, the Washington Mystics, the Baltimore-Washington Ticketmaster franchise, and the Patriot Center venue. He is now chairman and CEO of the new Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which merges Lincoln Holdings LLC and Washington Sports and Entertainment to manage the three teams under a single entity. Under the ownership of a man with an extensive background and evident success in business, the Wizards and the Verizon Center are sure to be in more than capable hands.
Q&A with Ted Leonsis
Washington Life: Congrats on the number #1 pick! Any secrets you can give away regarding who you’ll choose?
Ted Leonsis: Well, by the time you likely read this, it won’t be a secret. But let me say, I want our best player to be our hardest worker and most coachable player. The Capitals have that in Alex Ovechkin, and now I hope the Wizards have that as well.
WL: How are you preparing for NBA ownership?
TL: I have been preparing for this day for a long time. It is a tremendous opportunity and challenge for our partners in Monument Sports & Entertainment. I’ve learned many things – and admittedly made my share of mistakes – as majority owner of the Capitals. Foremost, winning a championship is one of the most difficult accomplishments to achieve. But we will develop our players, make prudent free agent signings and establish a strategy and culture that gives us the best opportunity to succeed.
WL: If you were to sum up your approach to ownership in a few words, what would it be?
TL: Transparent. Dedicated. Open-minded. Passionate.
WL: How do management philosophies for the NBA and NHL differ?
TL: I believe it is easier to turn around an NBA franchise. Simple math tells you that fewer people are involved on a game-by-game basis in basketball game when compared with a hockey game. But the key is setting and executing the correct strategy. Absent of that, you won’t be successful.
WL: Why did you get into sports ownership?
TL: I want to win. I want to win at whatever I do – sports, producing films, overseeing a start-up, writing a book. It’s in my DNA. I view our franchises – Wizards, Capitals and Mystics – as public trusts. Teams help energize a city and a region, but we need the support of the community and the business community to help achieve our goals.
WL: Did you play sports when you were “younger”?
TL: I’ve always been a sports fan – just like most of the boys I grew up with in Brooklyn. And most days after school we would head to the local basketball court and play until our parents made us come home and eat or study.
WL: David Stern said that this is a sort of “passing of the torch” from the Pollin family era to you and your partners. How will you approach this new “era?”
TL: First, I will listen. Since we have assumed day-to-day operations, I have tried to be a sponge, listening to fans, staff, coaches, politicians, corporate partners, players, alumni – you name it. We can’t make every change, and we certainly can’t make them all at once. But we will listen and evaluate concerns and suggestions. We will have some “quick wins” – I will make sure the ketchup is refilled – but we won’t lose sight of our primary goal, which is building a generationally great team.
WL: Do you like Football … Should Dan Snyder be worried?
TL: Yes. No.
WL: What can fans expect of the Wizards in 2010/11?
TL: On the court, Wizards fans have every right to demand a winner. But it won’t happen overnight; I don’t have a magic wand. We all must be patient, but we have to demonstrate continued progress. Off the court, we want the Verizon Center to be the most welcoming facility in the country. We have more control over the operation of the arena than we do wins and losses, and we are committed to providing a best-in-class environment for our fans. If anyone has concerns or issues, they can email me – Wizards fans at TheWashWiz@aol.com and Capitals fans at my longstanding WashingtionCaps@aol.com.
WL: Have you considered asking Alex Ovechkin to play for the Wizards? He’d be a beast on the boards!
TL: I’ve seen Alex on the basketball court; he has the pedigree – his mother won two Olympic gold medals in basketball. And he was a beast, but that’s his nature no matter what the challenge.