Former Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner dies at 97

1 month ago CBS Sports

Ted Lerner, the retired managing principal owner of the Washington Nationals, has died of complications from pneumonia, a team spokesperson confirmed to the Washington Post on Monday. He was 97. Lerner purchased the Nationals from Major League Baseball in May 2006 and retired as principal owner in 2018, when he ceded control of the team to his son, Mark.

"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Founding Managing Principal Owner, Theodore N. Lerner," the Nationals said in a statement. "The crowning achievement of his family business was bringing baseball back to the city he loved -- and with it, bringing a championship home for the first time since 1924. He cherished the franchise and what it brought to his beloved hometown."

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred released the following statement Monday:

"Ted Lerner was a proud product of Washington, DC, an avid baseball fan, and an extraordinary American success story. In 2006, this onetime usher at Griffith Stadium took ownership in the nation's capital and, in 2008, made Nationals Park a first-class destination. The Nationals' era of winning baseball culminated in the 2019 World Series Championship, the first for baseball fans in the District since 1924. Most importantly, the Nationals have always remained loyal to Ted's vision of unity, philanthropy and civic pride in Washington. 

"I have great appreciation for Ted's impact on his hometown and the game he loved. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Ted's entire family, including Annette Lerner, Mark Lerner and Judy Lenkin Lerner, Marla Lerner Tanenbaum and Robert Tanenbaum, and Debra Lerner Cohen and Edward Cohen."

With the franchise in dire financial straits, Montreal Expos owner Jeffrey Loria sold the team to a partnership of the other 29 MLB owners for $120 million in 2002. The commissioner's office ran the franchise during its relocation to Washington in 2005, and eventually sold the Nationals to a group led by Lerner for $450 million in 2006. The Lerner family owns over 90 percent of the franchise.

"Wow, it's been some kind of day," Lerner told the Associated Press after the sale was completed. "It's something I've been thinking about all my life, from the time I used to pay 25 cents to sit in the bleachers at Griffith Stadium."

Under Lerner, the Nationals have won four NL East titles (2012, 2014, 2016, 2017) as well as the 2019 World Series championship. The franchise has rostered some of the game's greatest players during that time, including Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner, and Max Scherzer. Lerner signed Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract in Jan. 2015. It was the largest free agent contract ever given to a pitcher at the time.

Forbes estimated the Nationals' team valuation at $2 billion last March. The Nationals are currently up for sale, though the ongoing MASN broadcast rights dispute with the Baltimore Orioles has complicated the search for a new owner. The Lerner family reportedly may seek minority investors instead.

Lerner is a billionaire who made his fortune in real estate development, primarily in the Washington DC area. He is survived by his wife, Annette Morris; three children, Mark, Debra, and Marla; as well as nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

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