Nationals to Explore Sale of Franchise, Possible Changes to Ownership Structure

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 11, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 17: A detailed view of a Washington Nationals hat resting on the wall of the dugout during the thirteenth inning of a game between the Washington Nationals and the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on August 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals may be for sale in the near future.

Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reported the family of real estate magnate Ted Lerner is looking into potentially selling the team. Lerner's family purchased the Nationals from Major League Baseball 16 years ago.

His son, Mark D. Lerner, is now the managing principal owner and said his family hired New York investment bank Allen & Company to research potential buyers or investors.

"This is an exploratory process, so there is no set timetable or expectation of a specific outcome," Mark Lerner said. "The organization is as committed as ever to their employees, players, fans, sponsors and partners and to putting a competitive product on the field."

Allen & Company is no stranger to selling sports franchises having managed the sale of the New York Mets and the NFL's Carolina Panthers. They are also running the sale of the Denver Broncos.

The Lerners purchased the Nationals for $450 million in 2006, and Forbes values the franchise at $2 billion this year. That is 12th-highest in the league and represents a 4 percent increase from a year ago.

Svrluga explained the 96-year-old Ted Lerner transferred the day-to-day control of the team to his son in 2018, although the family "always has made decisions by consensus."

This stands in stark contrast to Mark's statement to the Washington Post in 2018 when he said: "We will never sell the Nationals. That's what we've worked to get all those years. We think we do a pretty good job of it. There's no intention of this family—certainly while I'm alive and my sisters and brothers-in-law are alive—nobody's going to sell this team."

Washington has won four National League East crowns with five playoff appearances since the Lerners purchased the team. The one year it made the playoffs as a non-division champion happened to be 2019 when it won the World Series as a wild card.

Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer and Juan Soto are among the stars that have suited for the Nationals in the Lerners' tenure. 

"This process does not impact the team's ability to make baseball decisions," team spokeswoman Jennifer Giglio said. "It will not distract the organization from our goal of being a first-class organization and fielding a winning team."

Washington went 65-97 last year and is off to a 1-3 start this year.