Washington Nationals Owner, Real Estate Tycoon, Ted Lerner Dies at 97

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SportsWashington Nationals Owner, Real Estate Tycoon, Ted Lerner Dies at 97

Ted Lerner, former principal owner of the Washington Nationals and a top real estate developer in the D.C. area, died at 97 in Chevy Chase.

Ted Lerner speaks with family members before the start of the opening day game against the Miami Marlins in April 2017. Lerner died at his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on Sunday due to complications from pneumonia.Ted Lerner speaks with family members before the start of the opening day game against the Miami Marlins in April 2017. Lerner died at his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on Sunday due to complications from pneumonia. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC — Ted Lerner, the former principal owner of the Washington Nationals and a billionaire real estate developer in the D.C. area, has died at the age of 97, the team announced Monday.

Lerner, who beat out seven other bidders to purchase the Nationals from Major League Baseball for $450 million in 2006, died at his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on Sunday due to complications from pneumonia.

With a net worth estimated at $6.6 billion, Lerner was one of Maryland's seven billionaires in last year's Forbes ranking.

When he bought the Nationals, Lerner vowed to bring a World Series trophy to D.C. and that promise came true in 2019 when the Nationals defeated the Houston Astros.

“It’s been a very great day for the Washington Nationals,” Lerner said at the World Series championship parade in 2019. “They say good things come to those who wait. Ninety-five years is a pretty long wait. But I’ll tell you, this is worth the wait. This is for the city that’s always believed, the players that always fought and the fans who were with us every step of the way.”

Major League Baseball transferred ownership of the Nationals, which had moved to D.C. from Montreal, to Lerner in July 2006. The Lerner family is the majority owner of the franchise, controlling over 90 percent of the shares. Lerner retired as managing principal owner in 2018, turning the role to his son, Mark Lerner.

Lerner, who was the wealthiest owner of a Major League Baseball team for years after buying the Nationals, borrowed $250 from his wife, Annette, in 1952 to start a real estate company that sold homes to developers. Lerner Enterprises went on to become the largest private landowner in the D.C. area and built many commercial and retail developments, including Tysons II, Dulles Town Center and Wheaton Plaza.

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Founding Managing Principal Owner, Theodore N. Lerner. pic.twitter.com/l8rKD6KE8E
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) February 13, 2023

Born on Oct. 15, 1925, Lerner worked as an usher at old Griffith Stadium, where the Washington Senators used to play. He earned his law degree from George Washington University, selling real estate on the weekends to help support his family.

“I have great appreciation for Ted’s impact on his hometown and the game he loved," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement Monday. "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."

The Montreal Expos were sold to the 29 other owners in Major League Baseball in the early 2000s. In September 2004, MLB officially announced that after an extensive search for various relocation sites, they had settled on D.C. as the new home for the Expos.

The Nationals played their first year in D.C. in 2005 under MLB ownership. Lerner took over as owner in mid-2006. After early struggles on the field under Lerner's ownership, the Nationals made the playoffs five times between 2012 and 2019, with top draft picks like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper and star free agents like Max Scherzer.

In 2022, the Lerner family announced they had hired a firm to find potential investors to buy part or all of the Nationals. Forbes valued the team at $2 billion.

The Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Foundation supports local and international organizations. Lerner was a founding member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and he served on the board of trustees and executive committee of the George Washington University, which includes the donation of the Annette and Theodore Lerner Family Health and Wellness Center and the Theodore N. Lerner Hall at the GWU National Law Center.

Lerner is survived by his wife of 71 years, Annette Morris Lerner, three children, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.Get more local news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for free Patch newsletters and alerts.
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