Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Inside a billionaire pro sports owner’s lesson in local politics

By 37ci3 May24,2024



One of the oldest mantras in politics says “all politics is local”. You’d be forgiven if you no longer believed this to be true in the past decade.

If anything, thanks to social media, some communities have seen the national conversation turn into a local nightmare, as city councils and school boards become dysfunctional thanks to pointless national debates.

But the truth of the matter is that a mantra is a mantra for a reason – because it’s still true. Just ask Ted Leonsis, owner of the NBA Wizards, NHL Capitals and WNBA Mystics in Washington.

In a wide-ranging conversation on my podcast, the Chuck ToddCast, Leonsis delves with me on the lessons he learned from trying to move his sports empire from downtown DC to Alexandria, Virginia, just 5 miles away — or so he thinks: first. The Potomac River may be a thin line between DC and Virginia, but it’s a gulf in perception.


This week on NBC News’ Chuck ToddCast, Ted Leonsis describes what he learned after trying to move the Washington Capitols and Wizards from Washington to Virginia. Sign up to get new episodes of the Chuck ToddCast every Wednesday and Friday Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts from.


“Well, you know I learned a lot, didn’t I?” Leonsis says. “I… hope Mayor Bowser can give me the honorary title of vice mayor of downtown DC. We were thinking of moving three and a half miles away. We weren’t going to Indiana in the middle of the night, were we? But I see. , I was wrong.”

Ultimately, a deal Leonsis and Virginia Gov. Glenn Young agreed to move the teams to Alexandria fell apart amid opposition from the Virginia state legislature. After initially failing to agree, Leonsis and the Bowser-led D.C. government reached an agreement in March.

A veteran of the tech industry, Leonsis was part of AOL early on, and he also shares his thoughts on where the sports and media industries are headed.

He believes the size and power of the DC media market is greater than the “DMV” or the Beltway. He sees the market going from Richmond to Delaware.

“We have the opportunity to make greater D.C. one of the four most important markets in North America,” Leonsis says, adding, “So … we have the teams, the venues we play and the network we play on. And we’re able to go direct to the consumer.” , because the future will be like this”.

Leonsis also discusses the decision to receive an investment from Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. And he distinguishes between these minority investors, who are looking for a safe place to invest long-term, versus the growing trend of hedge funds buying sports teams outright, such as sovereign wealth funds.

“I think private equity is a bigger problem than investing in pension funds and sovereign wealth funds, because private equity wants, they want an exit. They want some control,” says Leonsis. According to his analysis, sovereign wealth funds have no control or say.

“You’re an investor, not a partner,” Leonsis continues, “You’re not getting any financial information. You meet with the owners once a year and the league once a year. We do not list them. They are investors. They have no effect. They’re completely passive investors, which was fine with them, because pension funds look at sovereign wealth funds the same dynamic … they look at safe harbor for 50 years, 100 years, and they look at the leagues as 100-year-olds, right?

If you’re interested in the future of sports ownership, the future of sports media, and the roles politicians and financiers will play in both, be sure to listen to the whole conversation. We’re covering the area to find more ways to prevent top high school basketball players from a potential new local DC-area college hoops tournament from leaving the DMV instead of George Washington University (my alma mater) or Georgetown (his alma mater) — or Maryland, George Mason, James Madison, etc.

You’ll also hear opinions on whether the toxic nature of our national politics is hurting his ability to sign free agents to play in Washington. For true DC sports fans, don’t miss his thoughts on Alexander Ovechkin and Bradley Beal!



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By 37ci3

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