If millionaires and billionaires line up to buy the Washington Nationals, they’ve been mum about it.
Since the Lerner family announced they were exploring options to sell the team, speculation about Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis buying the team could be linked to another deep-pocketed partner such as co-founder and co-founder Ted Leonsis. Co-Chairman David Rubinstein Carlyle Investments.
There were some rounds up for the usual suspects.
But what could complicate the sale is the ongoing unresolved state of Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and a feud with Nationals owner Ted Lerner and his family over what they believe is a fair portion of the cable pie they deserve. With Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos.
The cable partnership dates back to 2005, when the Montreal Expo moved to the borough, but the fight over TV funding officially kicked off in 2012, when a deal reset and the Nationals argued they weren’t getting a “fair” market value “Broadcast for their game. Since then, there have been lawsuits, judges, attorneys and appeals, and Washington still hasn’t gotten the money.
The Lerners didn’t say much about why they brought the team to market, but the family’s two main businesses, commercial real estate and baseball, have both taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s reasonable to conclude that MASN’s fight — and the $105 million the Nationals think they owe them — contributed to the Lerners’ decision.
If that’s the case — MASN has driven the Lerners out of the baseball business — then we may be at a point where the ongoing chaotic court battle over Nationals-Orioles TV funding is not in “baseball’s best interests.” “
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, please pick up the white concierge phone.
Since 1921, the commissioner has had the power to act in “baseball’s best interests,” and Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the game’s first commissioner, asked for that power as part of cleaning up the game after the 1919 Black Sox scandal. It’s been eliminated, reinstated, reduced and strengthened many times since — including when the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers faced ownership issues.
It appears that it would be in “baseball’s best interest” for Manfred to step in and order the MASN battle to be resolved when a legal battle between the two teams helped an owner quit baseball.
That seemed to mean a thumping blow to the Orioles, who set up hurdle after hurdle, refusing to pay what the Nationals and MLB felt the Washington club should pay.
They chose to pay their lawyers, and Angelos, 92, is considered to be in poor health and his lawyers showed no signs of fatigue.
MASN – Angelos, for all intents and purposes – recently won a court case that would force the network to pay an additional $23 million in an escrow account that allegedly had $105 million in what the Nationals believed was theirs . The $23 million will reportedly be interest expense on that amount.
It’s hard to deny that the extra $105 million in the Lerners’ pockets may have had an impact on their decision. If the spat contributed to the owner’s decision to sell the team — which just won the World Series three years ago — it’s bad for baseball.
But with a mess like this, things aren’t quite that simple.
I asked the commissioner’s office about calling power. Here’s their response: “Given that MASN matters are in active litigation, and certain unique aspects of the agreement that created MASN, the best interest right is not a viable option.”
One of the “unique” aspects? MASN is a private entity. It’s not a baseball team. This is a business that Manfred has no direct control over.
This is another “unique” aspect of the 2005 deal, which the Lerners inherited when they were named the winner of a $450 million franchise sale in 2006. When they made the deal to appease Angelos, everyone involved believed that by the time they had to fight the Orioles boss, he was over. seriously. By this time, they believed they would be dealing with a new Orioles owner who would have to agree to completely different terms in order to buy the franchise.
Instead, it’s the Lerners that are selling their team right now, although the Orioles probably won’t be too far behind in the market.
This MASN battle is sure to complicate sales for the Nationals. Who got the money, Lerners, who had to go through 10 years of litigation to get it, or the new owners? How is this resolved?
Where did that money come from? They can talk about the $105 million “custodial” account as they please. I can almost assure you that MASN doesn’t have $105 million in funding anywhere.
The same questions can be asked of the Orioles when that franchise sells.
None of this is in anyone’s best interest – except lawyers.
You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.