All signs point to a sudden truce between the MASN owners after the lawsuits came to a conclusion in favor of the Washington Nationals. While neither side was happy with the final numbers — they seemed to meet in the middle based on the RSDC valuations. But is there any other reason that John Angelos, the CEO of MASN, wanted to settle quickly this time? His baseball team has been rumored to be for sale — which he denied — but what about selling MASN to a third party?
If you read our article last week on Ted Leonsis, the lead partner in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, you know that Leonsis made it no secret that he wants baseball on his TV network. The quickest way to that is not buying the baseball teams — rather just get control of their broadcasting rights by purchasing MASN.
“We want to have year-round programming. That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s certainly what MSG has done, although they don’t have a baseball team. So we want to have that year-round programming.”— Leonsis said at the SBJ conference
Yes, MSG had the Mets broadcast through 2005, and no longer have baseball game broadcasting. They do report on baseball to fill the space in the summer, and they have soccer. Monumental does not have pro soccer or baseball currently.
Leonsis said that Monumental is expected to earn $650 million in revenue this year, and through organic growth should reach $1 billion in revenue “relatively quickly” in recent interviews. “We could have a $1.5 billion revenue run rate and a $10 billion to $15 billion trend of valuation,” Leonsis said at the CNBC conference if he made the right acquisition which seems to point to a baseball team acquisition or maybe in the short-run, the baseball broadcasting rights.
The big news for Leonsis in the past week was taking his ownership in pro basketball, hockey, and gaming, with his crown jewels of the NBA’s Wizards and the NHL’s Capitals to a new arena in Alexandria, Virginia in 2028 on the Potomac Yard site. He said he wanted to keep his WNBA’s Mystics in Washington, D.C. in the current Capital One Arena. Interestingly, the naming rights on that arena are set to go away in 2028. Coincidence of timing?
Those really seem to be bots replying to just one tweet in 11-12 word tweets with similar messages “I can’t wait to see Leonsis expand his sports empire to baseball” and “Leonsis aims to dominate the sports scene, eyeing Orioles and Nationals” and “Can’t wait to see the Orioles and Nationals under Leonsis’ ownership!”. Well, bots aren’t bright. You can’t own two MLB teams at once.
There seems to be a lot of coincidences with Leonsis. Our sources had told us that back in 2022 that he had tried to purchase the Nats’ portion of the MASN network with no luck. Leonsis was also a confirmed bidder for the Washington Nationals in 2022, and we broke the “No Sale” news months later.
Monumental Sports and their TV Network are a behemoth in regional sports team ownership and broadcasting because they encompass a region that stretches from parts of Pennsylvania and Delaware and south into the Carolinas — and Leonsis called his true market from Delaware to Richmond. You can buy a subscription to their streaming service worldwide or watch on most cable systems in their footprint. For instance, their Capitals Radio Network includes 14 different radio stations throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.
“My goal is to build the world’s most valuable regional sports and entertainment company.”— Leonsis said at the CNBC CFO Council Summit in Washington, D.C., last month.
“It’s no secret, I’m unabashedly – we should own a soccer team locally. We should own a baseball team locally,” Leonsis said. “But I won’t chase outside [this region], it’s not a trophy for us. It’s ‘Is this additive, is this accretive to the platform?’ If the platform is successful, then you can invest more in your hockey team, your baseball team, and your basketball team.”
Leonsis put it right out there that he wants a baseball team. The Orioles control MASN, and a full purchase of the Orioles/MASN would give Leonsis that control. But the Nationals fit better with the Washington based teams. What changed in 2023 is that Leonsis reportedly brought in a cash fund from Qatar that offered enough cashflow to buy a baseball network, and buy a baseball team. As you would expect, many people were not happy that Leonsis turned to Qatar, a country with major civil rights issues and ties to terrorism. But here we are. While others speculated that the Qatar money would be used to buy a baseball team — our sourced info was that Leonsis would initially use the money in a full 100 percent buyout of D.C. affiliate of NBC Sports/Comcast in what was known as NBC Sports Washington. That was the first steps during 2023 to rebrand NBC Sports Washington to the Monumental Sports Network which is now complete and being run by Leonsis’ son Zachary.
But still, Leonsis wants baseball, and made that clear when he spoke at the Sportico “Invest in Sports” conference back in October.
“I am not shy to say, ‘I want a claim to buy a baseball team.’ I love the sport.”— Leonsis said at the Sportico conference
For now, Monument would need to add baseball in the short-term, Leonsis with college baseball, minor league baseball, independent baseball, or make a deal with the Angelos family that controls the broadcasting rights to MASN — and as mentioned, their initial talks went nowhere. Or you just add your own original content that covers baseball as news and/or create shows about baseball like others do in various formats.
Does all of this put a screeching halt to the Leonsis sports empire aspirations of purchasing the Nats or is Monumental interested more in the rights to televise games? The fact is that even though Lerner is a partner in Leonsis’ Monumental Sports, the Nats still want to achieve their asking price, and $2 billion +/- was not enough to get Lerner to sell to Leonsis if you believe those reports. They were hundreds of millions apart per our sources, and too many stipulations in the deal.
With that Qatar money, who knows what happens next. But who wants to buy a baseball time where you don’t control your TV rights? Apparently nobody. And there lies the problem as we broke the news in 2022 that MASN was the Rubik’s Cube in the initial attempts to sell the Nats. Potential buyers lined up and most dropped out quickly. But if the Orioles ever get sold — which could happen first, per sources, then the TV rights could be solved as MLB most likely would not allow a sale to go through without the TV rights issues getting resolved with MASN.
Maybe Leonsis will pivot to buying the Orioles and purchasing all of MASN, or maybe he could find a “friendly” who wants the Orioles more than him, and pave the way with the TV rights. With reports of Leonsis trying to get $600 million in cash from taxpayers to fix up the Capital One Arena that Monumental owns, and not D.C., you wonder if that is next in importance on Leonsis priorities. That is a lot of money to fix up an existing structure that most say is in good shape. Many fans want to see a better product as Leonsis’ Wizards and Capitals are just bad right now — and the crime around his arena is skyrocketing. The Wizards lack star appeal, and the 38 year old, Alex Ovechkin, of the Capitals is down to his final years under contract.
Bloomberg News reported that David Rubenstein was in talks to purchase the Orioles, but Angelos said he is not selling. The coincidence is that Rubenstein was once tied to the Leonsis purchase of the Nats. Even though Rubenstein is extremely wealthy, you would expect that any potential purchase of the Orioles would be Rubenstein leading an ownership group of several wealthy investors that would join him in the purchase.
A good time also to look at what could happen to the MASN Network if the Orioles were sold, and technically the MASN contract goes to perpetuity unless the parties agree to change the language in the contract which could happen if the Orioles are to be sold. You have to believe that MLB would not allow a sale of the Orioles without resolving the Nats TV rights to get them their autonomy back.
Some would say where there is smoke there is fire. This is all a story to keep an eye on for the future.