TED LEONSIS NEWS CONFERENCE
“I want to thank a lot of people for doing unbelievable work and really making this deal a one-of-a-kind deal around some unbelievable assets. It’s a deal that frankly values the combined entity at more than $825 million. The Verizon Center and the Wizards and the assets that we bought it’s been reported was about $550 million. This was a serious undertaking and it took a village to get it all done. The people who I’d most like to recognize: first and foremost is my partner Dick Patrick. Raul Fernandez. Randy Boe, who works for us. Mike Kelly. George Stamas, who is actually on a hunting trip right now, and Andrew Herman. Steve Greenberg, Terry Morris from Allen and Company were very instrumental in this. Paul Hubert, who runs private banking for Citibank. I’d really like to thank people like Peter Biche. Peter did unbelievable, yeoman’s work in not only operating the franchises, [but also] dealing with us and due diligence. David Osnos, Rich Brand. And then of course I need to thank the Pollin family. The legacy that they are leaving us and the assets that they developed really are one of a kind and it’s truly an honor, and it’s very humbling to try to step into some of the biggest shoes of a sports and social entrepreneur like Mr. Pollin. I see Wes Unseld is here, too, Wes, you snuck in if that can be, and Jim Larranaga from George Mason is here as well.
“I’m here mostly to talk about the Wizards. I believe our future is truly bright. We were blessed a couple of weeks ago, Ernie and I were up with Mrs. Pollin, and we won the lottery, we got the first pick in the draft. If you look at the last 20 years in the NBA, there have been seven teams who have won the NBA championship. Six of those seven teams drafted the No. 1 or 2 pick, their foundational player. We experienced that with the NHL franchise where we saw a soaring of our performance and also the popularity of the team when we had the first pick and we were able to draft Alex Ovechkin.
“Our goal is simple with the Wizards. We need to build a generationally great team, we need to make the playoffs and we have to do what Abe Pollin was able to do in 1978, which is win a championship. But I have bigger aspirations because we have lots of teams that play in this building. My biggest aspiration is to have a Stanley Cup, a WNBA and an NBA championship here. It would be great to be able to host NCAA champions as well because this city deserves and it loves a winner. It also believes and internalizes around youth and hope and the promise of a better day.
“Winning a championship is hard. I haven’t been able to do it yet. I was shocked when I read that only seven franchises in the last 20 years have won an NBA championship. About 12 have won in the NHL. What we will do is really deconstruct and look at what makes for best practices, what makes for great franchises and try to innovate and build teams that we can be proud of.
“I’ve promised the Pollin family and all the employees that I would pay the appropriate amount of homage to the past, but that we had to change. Change would be driven by our differences and our diversity. I’m not placing any value judgment on differences, I’m just saying that we’re different people at a different time and age, and it’s our intention to take the best of what’s been built here and add to it through our own talents and the collective talents of all of our employees.
“We have big goals besides winning championships. A simple one is that I want to lead every league that we participate in, in the sale of full season tickets. Having sold out arenas, arenas that rock, really help the performance of the team. They really help to bind and bring together the passion of the city. But it also serves as a proxy and a metric of how we are doing as an organization bringing services to customers. Full season-ticket holders are the lifeblood of our company, and I will tell you that we need more full season-ticket holders for the Wizards. I will personally drive full season-ticket holders to games. I’ll mow lawns, I’ll wash cars. We are in this together. While I can’t promise championships, I can honestly and sincerely tell you that what is in our control is making the game experience, the value, [and] the way we treat our customers the best in class.
“I also am very committed to enhancing and maintaining the Verizon Center. This is the most important public, indoor facility, the most important public space, in the most important city in the world. It’s our intention to make this the cleanest, safest, most active, most valued place in the country. I believe that this is a lasting legacy of Abe Pollin and we promised the family that we will make this the most important building in the country.
“I learned an enormous amount from profiling and working around Abe Pollin and the Pollin family. We both believe that owning sports teams is a major public trust. I talk a lot about the power of double-bottom-line businesses and sports teams are truly double-bottom-line businesses. We saw that this week with what Mark Lerner and the Nationals were able to do with a rookie phenom who meet and beat expectations. We saw for a couple of days the city galvanize around a sports team and around a player. That’s the power of sports. Abe understood that and my family and I truly understand that. Abe built this building, he was a great social entrepreneur and we intend to respect that legacy.
“It’s a big responsibility and one that I can’t do alone. I need my partners and all of the employees. Earlier today we had a big company meeting. We brought together people from the Washington Capitals, the Mystics, the Washington Wizards, what was once known as Lincoln Holdings, what was once known as Washington Sports and Entertainment. In order to give a visible sign of change, we announce today that we are changing the name of the combined entity to Monumental Sports & Entertainment. I believe that that name is new and fresh and will reflect what we are working to accomplish as a group. So together, one company, the Wizards, the
Caps, the Mystics, the Verizon Center, the local Ticketmaster franchise, and the Kettler Capitals Iceplex Arena, the management of the Georgetown games here and of course the Patriot Center. It truly is an unparalleled set of assets. While we want to be cognizant of our past, we want to be very focused on the future.
“I’m giving all of our employees a copy of my book, The Business of Happiness. Hopefully some of you may have read it. I want to be an open book; as a leader I want to be very transparent. The fundamental of my book and my life vision is that we’re here to serve communities and interest. Being in service to others is the highest calling an individual can have. We plan to be very open in our communication. We want people to have high levels of self expression. I’m all about personal empathy, I want our employees to be empathetic to our customers, we want to be empathetic to our players and we want to have very high levels of gratitude. Our higher calling is to build the best franchise and to be able to hold the mirror up to our community and make sure that we have built something that everyone is proud of. And I want to win. At the end of the day there’s a lot of noise and a lot of talk, but we are in the ultimate wins and losses business, and having lost a lot of games and won a lot of games I can clearly state that winning feels a lot better than losing. Our fans demand that. They buy into the double-bottom-line, they buy into the service, but they want us to win. That is ultimately the deliverable that we owe everyone.
“My partnership group are my best friends. I’m very, very proud that we have the most diverse and most powerful set of local philanthropists and businesspeople probably in all of professional sports. I just wanted to spend a couple of minutes to introduce them. They will help us to build great franchises. Dick Patrick. Jack Davies. Richard Fairbank. Raul Fernandez. Michelle Freeman. Sheila Johnson. It’s wonderful that we have two women owners. Richard Kay. Jeong Kim. Mark Lerner.
“We are announcing some new partners. This was a big purchase and we needed to have help, and it’s good to have friends. Scott Brickman. The SWaN Investment group: Fredrick Schaufeld, Clifford White, and Anthony Nader. I’m also thrilled that some of Abe’s partners decided to stay in, which gives us great connection to our past. Neil Cohen. Albert Cohen. This is our partnership and leadership group – thank you for all of your help.
“I also want to announce that Raul Fernandez and Sheila Johnson will each assume the role of Vice Chairs of Monumental Sports and Entertainment. My partner Dick Patrick is also becoming a Vice Chair and also our President and COO of Monumental. As Chairman of Monumental, I am thrilled that we have connective tissue to every part of our community. Virginia is very important to us, Maryland is very important to us, official Washington is very important to us. All of the communities in this city are very important.
“I’ve introduced all the partners but I haven’t introduced the most important partner, and that’s my family. My wife, Lynn. My son, Zach, is here. Like the Pollins we are going to run this as a family enterprise.
“I published an email address – TheWashWiz@aol.com – and a couple months ago it was announced that I would be buying the rest of the assets. People aren’t shy about telling us what they want. This morning I had 130 emails and I published my email address yesterday at about 4 o’clock. It’s my intention to listen to the community. One guy sent me three different emails about the quality of the ketchup and how it bothers him that the ketchup dispenser is not filled all the time. I promise, whoever runs the ketchup, I will be looking to make sure that it’s filled. Another fan sent me an email and said, ‘Draft John Wall, sign LeBron James, change the name of the team, and lower ticket prices.’ Yes, sir. We will listen as much as we can, we will do our best. I’m sincere in that I will work really, really hard, to make all of you proud.
“I want to leave a message for Washington Capitals fans. I am as dedicated and committed to winning a Stanley Cup as I am to winning an NBA championship. I believe I have the personal bandwidth and the experience to manage all of these assets in a way that doesn’t compromise any standard. Sheila manages the Washington Mystics on a day-to-day basis and I believe collectively we can win championships in both the NHL and the NBA, and the future starts now.”