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Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner dies at 97

Lerner’s group purchased the team from Major League Baseball in 2006 for $450 million after it was moved to the US capital from Montreal

In this Feb. 28, 2017, file photo, Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner tries on a baseball cap before a ribbon cutting ceremony to open The Ballpark in West Palm Beach, Fla.
In this Feb. 28, 2017, file photo, Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner tries on a baseball cap before a ribbon cutting ceremony to open The Ballpark in West Palm Beach, Fla.John Bazemore (AP)

Ted Lerner, the billionaire real estate developer whose family bought the Washington Nationals in 2006, has died, the team announced Monday. He was 97.

A Nationals spokesperson said Lerner died Sunday of complications from pneumonia at his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Lerner’s group purchased the Nationals from Major League Baseball in 2006 for $450 million after the team was moved to the US capital from Montreal. He was managing principal owner until ceding that role to son Mark in 2018.

Under the Lerners’ ownership, the Nationals went from one of baseball’s worst teams in their first several seasons in Washington to World Series champions in 2019. The Lerners also are credited with revitalizing the city’s Navy Yard area since Nationals Park opened in 2008.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Founding Managing Principal Owner Theodore N. Lerner,” the team 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.”

Lerner was born in 1925, the year after the Washington Senators beat the New York Giants in the World Series. That franchise left the city in 1960 to become the Minnesota Twins, and its expansion replacement lasted a decade before moving to Texas as the Rangers.

Washington did not have a baseball team until MLB assumed control of the Expos and moved them there from Montreal in 2005. The group led by the Lerners was chosen as the winning bidder.

Last year, the Lerners began exploring the possibility of selling the team, which is worth $2 billion, according to Forbes, which estimates the family’s net worth is $6.6 billion thanks to the Nationals and Lerner Enterprises, one of the largest property-owning companies in the Washington area.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement called Lerner “an extraordinary American success story” – a former stadium usher who brought baseball back to prominence in the nation’s capital.

“I have great appreciation for Ted’s impact on his hometown and the game he loved,” Manfred said. “The Nationals have always remained loyal to Ted’s vision of unity, philanthropy and civic pride in Washington.”

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