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D.C. sports icon, Wizards owner Pollin dies
Question of the Day
Under a plan devised nearly a decade ago, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is expected to take over majority ownership of the franchise, as well as the Verizon Center and the area’s Ticketmaster franchise.
Mr. Pollin owned the Capitals until he sold the team to Mr. Leonsis in 1999. He also sold the Washington Mystics of the Women’s National Basketball Association to Leonsis in 2005. As part of those sale agreements, Mr. Leonsis secured the right to purchase the remaining businesses of Washington Sports & Entertainment if and when Mr. Pollin passed away or decided to sell the team.
Details on how the transfer of ownership would take place are still unclear, but the purchase likely would require several hundred million dollars from Mr. Leonsis and his partners.
The Wizards alone have been valued at more than $300 million, and taking control of ownership of Verizon Center might require Mr. Leonsis to assume debt incurred by Mr. Pollin when he financed the arena’s construction.
Mr. Leonsis and his partners, known as Lincoln Holdings LLC, already own 44 percent of Washington Sports & Entertainment.
“Now is not the time to discuss that subject,” Mr. Leonsis said in a statement released by the Capitals Tuesday night. “Our focus now should be on mourning a great man who has done so much for our city.”
Over more than half a century, Mr. Pollin was a vital figure on the District’s sports scene.
Mr. Pollin and two partners bought the Baltimore Bullets in 1964 and moved the franchise to Washington nine years later. He and the Bullets brought the city a championship in 1978.
He became the first owner of the National Hockey League’s Capitals when the league awarded Washington an expansion franchise in 1973. The club went to the Stanley Cup finals in 1998, the franchise’s only appearance in the NHL’s championship series.
In addition, Mr. Pollin used private funds to build arenas in which his teams could play. He opened Capital Centre in Landover in 1973 and then MCI Center, now the Verizon Center, in downtown Washington in 1997. The Wizards, Capitals, Washington Mystics of the WNBA and the Georgetown University men’s basketball team all play at Verizon.
An architect by trade, Mr. Pollin said he wished to revitalize the downtown area of his adopted city with the construction of his new arena. The building at Gallery Place is the hub of what now is a vibrant and bustling part of the city.
Mr. Pollin said he considered the construction of the arena and the revitalization of the area that followed to be his greatest achievement.
“I had two goals when I decided to build this building,” he once said. “The first was that if I was building in downtown Washington, the nation’s capital, it had to be the best building of its kind in the country. The second was to be the catalyst that turned the city around.”
D.C. Council member Marion Barry served as mayor at the time Mr. Pollin was bringing the arena into being.
“He was a giant of a man,” Mr. Barry said. “He wasn’t just a businessman. He was a giver. He was all those things we all try to be like.”
About the Author
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