- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2005

Indianapolis media mogul Jeffrey Smulyan, battling for local political support in his bid to own the Washington Nationals, has won over at least one District council member — Kwame Brown.

Brown is the first city political leader to express his support for the bid by Smulyan, who had received much criticism locally for being an out-of-town bidder. Brown’s decision is based on the group of local business leaders Smulyan has brought into his bid, as he continues to try to garner local support.

Smulyan has brought in a number of local and minority investors including TV One chairman Alfred Liggins; financier Dwight Bush; business executives Ernie and William Jarvis; attorney Eric Holder and former Washington Redskins Charles Mann, Calvin Hill and Art Monk. They, among other investors, are expected to invest at least a combined $100 million for their share of the team.

“I support their mixture of ownership,” Brown said. “How could you not support a group with people like Dwight Bush and Eric Holder and the Jarvises? These are people who have been in the city for a very long time and have made significant contributions to the city, and for them to have equity ownership in the team is important.

“I keep hearing people say they want local ownership. How do you define local ownership? I do it by people who are from the city and in the city and have equity ownership in the team. They would even have an opportunity for veto power if the majority ownership wanted the team to move. That is powerful stuff.

“It’s kind of hard not to have a level of respect and would like to see an ownership like this come about. How could you not support an ownership group that looks like that? I can’t go against that as an elected official. That is a solid-looking group.”

Brown said he was not necessarily endorsing one group over another, but stating that he was very comfortable with Smulyan’s bid. It is an important hurdle for Smulyan, who has been lobbying local officials to ease their fears about his status as an out-of-town businessman. In July, Brown, along with council members Marion Barry, Vincent Orange and Vincent Gray, appeared at a news conference supporting the bid of Washington businessman Jon Ledecky.

Smulyan welcomed Brown’s comments.

“We are very pleased that Councilman Brown feels that way,” he said. “We have always felt that as people get to know more about us, they will feel more comfortable with us.”

In a letter to baseball commissioner Bud Selig at the end of September, District Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp said the Nationals’ eventual owners must be “vested in the District.”

Mayor Anthony Williams has publicly supported the bid by Jeff Zients, Fred Malek and the Washington Baseball Club. Six other bidders are seeking to buy the Nationals, currently owned by Major League Baseball and expected to sell for a minimum of $450 million — the Lerner family, Washington area real estate developers; Washington area developer Franklin Haney, Sr.; a group led by Sallie Mae Chairman Alfred Lord and Virginia businessman William Collins; a bid by former Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten and a group headed by Chicago attorney Yusef Jackson and California grocery store magnate Ronald Burkle.

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