- The Washington Times - Monday, April 11, 2022

The Lerner family will reportedly explore a sale of the Washington Nationals and have hired an outside investment bank to evaluate potential buyers. 

Real estate mogul Ted Lerner and his family have owned the Nationals since 2006, when they purchased the club for $450 million a year after Major League Baseball relocated the club from Montreal to the District. Mark Lerner has been the team’s managing principal owner since 2018, when his father, Ted, transferred day-to-day control of the team. Ted Lerner is now 96.

But after 16 years at the helm — and a few years removed from the team’s first-ever World Series championship — the Lerners have hired Allen & Company, a banking firm that has helped oversee the sale of other sports franchises like the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, MLB’s Houston Astros and NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

Allen & Company is also involved with the current sale of the NFL’s Denver Broncos, a team expected to fetch as much as $4 billion.

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

Forbes estimates that the Nationals are worth $2 billion, ranking them as the 12th most-valuable franchise in MLB. Since 2012, six MLB teams have changed hands — starting with the San Diego Padres in 2012 for $600 million and most recently with the New York Mets in fall 2020 for a record $2.4 billion to hedge fund manager Steve Cohen. 

The Nationals told the Post, which first reported the news, that the Lerners are evaluating all aspects of the team’s ownership structure, with a spokeswoman suggesting that the family could also bring on additional partners. Allen & Company will evaluate potential investors for the Nationals, as well. 

The evaluation comes amid a pivotal time for the franchise. With a new season recently underway, the Nationals are beginning another rebuild as they have moved on from most of the pieces that helped them win the World Series in 2019. Last season, Washington traded ace Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner for a package of top prospects and dealt with other veterans at the league’s trade deadline. 

Any potential sale could have huge ramifications for Nationals star Juan Soto, considered to be one of the best young players in baseball.  Under their ownership, the Lerner family has let homegrown stars such as Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon leave in free agency — and Soto’s future has been highly debated in the District with the 23-year-old able to hit the open market in 2024.  Soto reportedly turned down a 13-year, $350 million offer this offseason.

A team spokeswoman told The Post that the exploration of a sale will “not impact” the club’s ability to make baseball decisions.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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