SBD/November 27, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Nearing 15 Years In Sports Industry, Monumental's Ted Leonsis Happy With Various Enterprises

Leonsis' Capitals have nearly tripled in value under his ownership
As Monumental Sports & Entertainment Founder, Chair & CEO TED LEONSIS "approaches the 15th anniversary of his foray into professional sports ownership next May," he "likes much of what he sees when he surveys his ... dominion," according to a profile by Ben Fischer of the WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL. Leonsis owns a Capitals team that has "nearly tripled in value under his watch, a growing roster" of Wizards season-ticket holders, an "emerging new media powerhouse and a vibrant, busy downtown arena." Leonsis "firmly rejects the notion that a window of goodwill for the team or himself might be closing among frustrated Capitals fans in particular as seasons keep ending prematurely." In a "sharp turn in strategy compared with his early days, he's embraced the long game, shunned quick-fix moves and knows he has to keep tinkering and hope for a bit of luck." Leonsis said, "If we don't win the Stanley Cup, we do what? Will people cancel their season tickets? Will sponsors stop supporting us? Will Verizon say, 'No, we don't want to be on the Verizon Center anymore?' No, I don't live in fear of that." Leonsis' own "patience may be the defining story of his tenure at the top," as he has "transformed into a different kind of owner, a more resolute, sanguine leader who keeps an eye on the big picture." Leonsis knows the "difference between disappointment and alienation," but he "sees zero evidence of the latter among fans." Capitals season-ticket renewals "are approaching 100 percent, and merchandise sales [are] near tops in the league." He gets the "benefit of the doubt, in large part because people just like him."

MASTER OF ILLUSION? George Washington Univ. sports management professor MARK HYMAN said that Leonsis "bought himself years of goodwill through his superior marketing and understanding of what matters to consumers." Hyman said, "That's the secret to successfully selling anything, creating the impression -- and sometimes the illusion -- of that personal touch. And he's done that pretty well." The Wizards and Capitals "are still both losing money, which actually may help Leonsis among his followers." But the Capitals "are close, narrowing" their losses to $1M in '12, down from $9.1M in '10. Leonsis said that the Wizards "are losing much more," though he declined to provide a figure. He said that if the Wizards improve, he will "raise ticket prices and cut the team's losses." But a "major point is still coming for Leonsis: The expiration of Monumental's TV contract with Comcast Sports Net to produce Capitals games comes in three years, Wizards games in seven." Leonsis said that a bigger payment to Monumental "under that contract would immediately put the entire enterprise in the black." Or, he "may create a joint venture with Comcast Sports Net or abandon it altogether and do it in-house" (WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/22 issue).
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