The Washington Nationals have been up for sale for just under a year with multiple groups interested in buying the MLB franchise from the Lerner family. Unlike the Washington Commanders, though, it could be some time before a deal goes through.
In April 2022, the Lerners hired New York investment bank Allen & Company to explore new potential investors. Exploratory research to find potential new minority owners to change the structure of the Nationals’ organization led to an overwhelming interest in an outright sale.
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As interest in a Nationals’ sale increased, billionaire Ted Leonsis was among 28 interested parties who expressed a desire to submit bids for the MLB club. Washington began meeting with potential buyers, with several even touring Nationals Park.
With Leonsis emerging as the front-runner to buy Washington’s MLB franchise, facing competition from another prominent billionaire, early estimates came in on a potential cost for the franchise. While it seemed unlikely the Lerner family would see its $3 billion asking price met, bids were expected to exceed $2 billion.
A deal was originally expected to come to fruition late in 2022 and bidders were monitoring the Nationals’ trade talks involving superstar outfielder Juan Soto. Months later, it now appears that Washington D.C.’s baseball team won’t have a new owner for some time.
According to Chris Smith of the Sports Business Journal, the Nationals sale is now expected to be put on pause through the entirety of the 2023 MLB season. While the Lerner family is still committed to selling the franchise, it reportedly didn’t want the process hanging over the club this season.
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Another factor in the delay, per Smith, is the existing legal dispute with the Baltimore Orioles. The two MLB franchises are involved in a fight over MASN, with the clubs sharing the regional sports network. The Nationals own 24 percent of the network and the teams have gone to court over a disagreement of the rights fees owed to Washington.
- Washington Nationals franchise value (Forbes): $2 billion
A ruling from the New York State Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments about $100 million in unpaid rights fees, isn’t expected for months. Because broadcasting rights fees for RSNs are heavily tied to the revenue generated by a team, bidders want clarity on the situation before a sale is finalized.
The Nationals are in the middle of a rebuild and with no stars remaining on the roster, the lack of clarity in regard to future ownership shouldn’t impact their plans this season. Whenever a deal happens and the Lerners are replaced, there could be significant changes to an organization that has a combined 146-238 record over its last three full seasons.
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This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.