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The official ownership news conference

Posted on May 3, 2006 at 4:40 pm

Is set to take place at 4:45 PM. I will liveblog in this post. Also, the Lerners are having a news conference at 7:00 PM and I would totally be there in my Brenda Starr reprise role, if it weren’t for the fact that Mr. Chatter thinks this obsession is like having a second job and is grumbling about it. I suppose it is (but a fun one!). Ok here you go. The normal disclaimers apply regarding this is done at the rate I can type, so may not include full or completely accurate quotes….

PRE-CONF: MLB has chosen Theodore and Mark Lerner with Stan Kasten as owners of the Nationals. Approval of the owners should come at the next quarterly meeting May 17-18. The Lerners will probably take over the club shortly there after.

Stan Kasten is expected to take over as president of the Nationals as soon as the ownership group makes it official, replacing Tony Tavares.

The decision was an agonizing one and comes a day before the groundbreaking of the $611 million ballpark.

In flux is hte current television contract for the Nationals. Even though they relocated, they were still operating as the Montreal Expos. That is expected to end in near moments with Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig.


Bud Selig: I’m very pleased to annouce today that I have selected a group led by real estate developer Theodore Lerner as owner of the Washington Nationals. I will forward the selection to a vote at our next meeting in New York. I thank those who were not chosen for their interest and great amount of time and energy devoted to the process. This is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make. I like to be deliberate, but this was painful and because the groups were so well qualified and they were so good that sometimes frankly I wish some of them were not so good and that would have made the decision easier. I agonized over it and if I sound a little more relaxed today, I am. I thank all the groups. They’ve been very gracious and classy in every way.

I’m excited about the Lerner family and what they will bring to the community and MLB. They have been committed to stable innovative and solid baseball management. They have not varied from those goals and have, and I underline have, scrupulously followed our procedures. I have found family ownership has served baseball interests well in the past. Accountability is critical. I am confident the Lerners will be accountable to their fans and to baseball. Family ownership has long been a model for baseball. The O’Malleys, John Fetzer of the Tigers, and as you know he was my mentor. The Galbrechts(?) with the Pirates, and there are several historical successes in the game. I believe the Lerner family will be another excellent example and I look forward to working with them

I also want to thank Tony Tavares, Jim Bowden, Frank Robinson and the entire Nationals staff for working so hard. As I said to the executive council and I’ll say to you today, this has been a long journey. The journey is over and I’m grateful it has had the great end that it’s had. We now have the team back in the nation’s capital, a new ballpark, and the journey is over. Thank you.


Comcast SportsNet: I was wondering what your message is to the citizens of DC who are aware of the $300m+ profit in light of the stadium costs that were approved

Selig: Your numbers are frankly incorrect. All of the costs of owning the franchise are not in. The Lerner family is making a huge commitment, there’s no question about that. I have every bit of confidence that the MLB when all the costs are in on this journey, and remember there were a lot of loss years, so I’m not sure where you got your numbers from. Yes, baseball came out all right, but the fact of the matter is so will everyone else in this process.

Sports Business Journal: You’re obviously one for analysis and reflection. If you had to do this all over again, the city council lease stuff notwithstanding, is there something you would have done different?

Selig: Yes, I’ve thought a lot about this and had a lot of sleepless nights. I don’t think there’s been anything I have agonized over more than this. As I look back now, I don’t think so. The lease negotiations took a long time and I feel good about where it ended up. The ownership groups were so good and I was lobbied very very hard. This way it was painful and I say to the fans of Washington – I understand why they were getting restless. This is a decision that was made for hopefully the next generations, if it’s good – I think history will prove this out to be a team in the nation’s capital that has the chance to be one of our great franchises. Now with ownership and management will bring great pride to Washington. I think history will prove it was time well spent.

Q: How difficult to say no to Smulyan and Malek group?

Selig: I had good conversations with them. Those two groups are good. Classy – well represented. You had some groups that made this a tough decision. Malek led the fight to bring baseball back to Washington. Smulyan came in a little later and put together a terrific group. Intense in work and efforts. I want to say this about the 8 groups – as tough as it was for me, it’s a great thing for baseball. You had 8 groups willing to pay to have baseball in our nation’s capital.

Heath @ Post: Race issue in last few days and Lerner family did not have real minority partners – accusations of window dressings. What kind of credence do you give to that?

Selig: The Lerners really were diligent in living up to what we asked everyone to do. They had some minority partners from the beginning and just didn’t announce it. They have some now and will probably introduce them at the press conference. Diversity is important to me. It’s critical in DC to have good minority ownership – it’s something I really want. The Lerners are extremely receptive to it. They certainly understood it and I think in the end their representation will be very accepted in the community and to us too. I know there’s been a lot said the last couple days, but hopefully now that goes away.

NYT: How important having Stan Kasten?

Selig: Family model works well for me. I really meant what I said here. If you look back on our history, the family model works well. There were a lot of things impressive – about all the groups. I used to get up at 3AM and work on a legal pad all the pluses and minuses of each group. Kasten is a veteran baseball executive who will plow immediately into that job. And just the reputation – Ted went to high school there. Went to college there. So all the factors – the family ownership was very important and the depth of their commitment was most impressive.

Q: Can you describe as a former owner what were the Nationals deprived by not having an owner?

Selig: I’ll leave that to people – the Nationals had a lot of success last year, but not this year. I think much of that has been overblown. This has been a long journey and something that really could have had significant problems when the team was in Montreal. We don’t want to own baseball teams. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to have that gone. To Frank Robinson’s credit and Tony Tavares’ and to some extent Jim Bowden and before that Minaya – they did a terrific job. Will they be better off with an owner? You bet.

WUSA: (no response – cut to next)

Jim Williams: How important is having local ownership to you?

Selig: I have always believed that local ownership was very important. I tell the story of the Braves leaving Milwaukee because they didn’t have local ownership. When you have it available it’s a good thing. It’s important. Local ownership is a huge virtue.

WSJ: Follow up on family ownership.

Selig: The Cardinals – the group Bill DeWitt had. George Steinbrenner has owned the Yankees a long time. But when you can get a single entity and they’ll have minority partners, don’t misunderstand me, but when the control is a single entity – that to me is a positive thing. (missed some of this)

WSJ: Lerner is known as intensely private. Are you concerned about his ability to be in the limelight and function and spend the money.

Selig: Knowing his career, there’s no question he’ll spend the money. I said to him this morning when I called – well your life just took a dramatic turn. I don’t think he quite understands it, but he surrounds himself with good people. There’s no doubt in my mind that they know exactly what they’re getting into and I think they’re a proud and happy family.

WSJ: How big the group is?

Selig: How many minority partners? I think at the moment they have 7 or 8. There may be additions to that also. And other than that it’s just the family.

Nakamura @ Post: Mayor of DC did not support the group (disregarding race) you picked nor did the council members. The council seems to be very concerned about not being an equal partner with MLB. I’m wondering how you get over this image and many people grumbling.

Selig: I had several calls including the Mayor who was gracious and happy this is over. As of today we’re all wearing the same uniform and it says Washington DC on it. We need to get together. The Lerners will reach out, Stan Kasten will reach out. They will be very aggressive with that. I don’t have a scintilla of doubt that they will be great partners with the city.

WTOP: There’s one big piece missing – the television contract. Can you enlighten us?

Selig: I can’t. That’s a situation that we’re working on. Bob DuPuy has been talking to all the parties. I meant the journey as far as ownership was concerned. It’s in everyone’s best interest to get the television we desire so we’ll continue to work in that direction.

AP: How important was the factor of Stan joining the group.

Selig: Stan is a great baseball executive with a wonderful track record. Certainly I think the Lerners – I think this is a manifestation of how they’re gonna operate this club – get the best quality people they can. Having Kasten is a positive.

Dallas Morning News: This franchise was a contraction candidate. The MN franchise was a contraction candidate. Did you ever imagine it could end up this way?

Selig: Contraction is something that came from the owners. In all my 13 years, I’ve never seen people more united on a topic such as contraction. This really is the end of this phase of the journey and it’s a remarkable end. When you think back to where we were the last 3 and 4 years, I don’t think the wildest optimist could have believed it’d end this way. By the way, the MN club is working really hard.

Tim Lemke @ Times: Non-local aspects – you mention the Lerners were very scrupulous in following the rules. Do you think they’ll really go to bat for the league when asked whether it be in negotations with various parties? Do you see them being a strong partner?

Selig: I hope I’m close with all the owners. I have a belief that I was raised under. You always put the sport and the sports’ interest above your own. Of course you hope you get owners who respect the game and treat the game at all times with great respect. Today I would tell you I think all the owners – I’m proud to be associated.

Do you expect unanimous votes?

Selig: lemme put it this way – most have been 30-0. I’ll not lose any sleep over this one.

Fisher: TV contract – Nats attendance is down and folks can watch the O’s but not the Nats. How essential is it to creating a fanbase and what role should the Lerners play?

Selig: I do think Bob DuPuy has been talking to all parties. It is essential – there’s no question. The Nats need the same tv exposure every club gets. We’re very sensitive to that issue and we’re going to try to solve it as expeditiously as possible.

DuPuy: I agree with the commissioner. I was in contact with [Council member] Jack Evans today who introduced legislation yesterday, as you know. We’re trying to arrange meetings to see what we can do both short term and longer term solution so we don’t have to go through this going forward. We will bring the Lerners in immediately.

Comcast SportsNet: Can you set the record straight and offer some advice as to what the profit to the other 29 owners is?

Selig: That probably has less – no, we’ll have to take a look at it and once it’s all done and over, we’ll look at all the numbers. The owners of this sport took a huge gamble, spent a lot of money, lost a lot of money for a long time. Whatever the return is, it’s fairly earned.

Q: Did you seek the counsel of the other owners and their opinion of the Lerner family?

Selig: I did not, but I did talk to everyone in baseball and had a very very positive response.

End Call.

7 Responses to “The official ownership news conference”

  1. C'ville Nat says:

    Excellent; thanks

  2. Phil Dunn says:

    For what it is worth, Phil Wood, interviewed on XM Radio this afternoon, said the Lerners like Jim Bowden and may keep him around. I certainly hope Stan Kasten has other ideas about that.

  3. Brandon says:

    It’s been said before but…

    You rock for doing this!

  4. JW says:

    Miss Chatter — Thanks for the reporting.

  5. Lerner press conference

    Last night I was able to attend the press conference for the new owners of the Washington Nationals, the Lerner family and associates, held at the Fairmont Hotel on M Street NW. I did not have any trouble getting…

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