- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006

Two key committees of Major League Baseball owners unanimously recommended the sale of the Washington Nationals to the family of Bethesda real estate mogul Ted Lerner yesterday, paving the way for a positive vote by all league owners this morning.

The league’s executive and ownership committees voiced no objection to commissioner Bud Selig’s choice of the Lerner family. A likely unanimous vote by all 29 other owners will allow the Lerners to take over control of the team by mid-June, thus finally beginning a new chapter for the struggling Washington franchise.

League owners were formally introduced yesterday to Lerner, his son Mark, and sons-in-law Robert Tanenbaum and Edward Cohen. The league also introduced Stan Kasten, the former Atlanta Braves executive and new president of the Nationals.

“I think everyone’s pleased,” MLB president Bob DuPuy said. “We did not want to be in the business of owning the Nationals. Everyone wanted to see the team get transferred, and everyone’s been extremely impressed with the quality of the Lerner family, and getting Stan Kasten back into the game.”

MLB in 2002 purchased the Nationals franchise, then known as the Montreal Expos, with the intent to contract the team. The league later decided to relocate the team to Washington beginning with the 2005 season.

The $450 million in proceeds from the team’s sale will be distributed evenly to all owners once the sale closes, most likely between June 15 and the All-Star break in July, DuPuy said.

Meanwhile, league officials and owners held lengthy meetings yesterday to discuss the collective bargaining agreement with players, which expires at the end of the year. DuPuy said the league is optimistic that a new agreement can be reached without the threat of a work stoppage, because there are fewer controversial issues than in past negotiating periods.

“The 2002 collective bargaining negotiations involved greatly expanded topics for discussion,” DuPuy said. “The breadth of things, between installing the drug testing program for the first time, enhanced revenue sharing … the debt service rule were all subjects that required exploration from the start. We have a framework now that we think we can move with.”

He said “adjustments need to be made” to improve on the league’s revenue sharing system. But he defended the current structure, despite some recent criticism that smaller-market teams have not spent revenue sharing money to improve their teams.

“We have contended all along that the money has not been misused and the competitive balance that you’ve seen over the last three to five years is an indication of how that money is being used,” DuPuy said. “Data was presented and anecdotal evidence was presented to support that.”

DuPuy said league owners spent part of yesterday reviewing plans for Compton Field, the first youth baseball academy, which recently opened in Los Angeles. That discussion led to brief talks about creating a new baseball academy in Southeast Washington, which is required to be built as part of the lease agreement for the Nationals new ballpark.

Also today, Selig is expected to announce an extension of the contract to offer the MLB Extra Innings cable package on most cable providers and the DirecTV satellite service, which allows fans to view most out-of-market baseball games.

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