Monumental Ideas for D.C.

Ted Leonsis, Founder, Chairman, Managing Partner and CEO, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, has become quite the mainstay in the Washington, D.C. sports scene. He’s the principal owner of the Washington Capitals, the Washington Wizards and its G League affiliate Capital City Go-Go, the Washington Mystics and the NBA 2K League Wizards District Gaming. Leonsis also owns Capital One Arena and the regional net Monumental Sports Network. Now he’s expressed interest in purchasing the Washington Nationals, after he had attempted to buy the team from the Lerner family for more than $2 billion in late 2022. Leonsis spoke with Cynopsis Sports about what’s going on in the nation’s capital, Monumental’s future and what D.C. means to him.

You’re not only an owner, but you’re a fan of the teams under Monumental’s umbrella. How do you balance that fandom with making the best business decisions for your franchises?

Before I became a team owner, I was a season ticket holder for the Capitals, Mystics, and Georgetown basketball. It was the best training to becoming obsessive about the fan experience. Nothing frustrates me more than a ketchup dispenser that’s empty or a bathroom stall that doesn’t close properly. If you cannot get those small-but-important things right – it signals that we are not living up to the standards our fans expect. As the leader, I know we must get that right. The dominoes of decisions which follow then become easy. If you have a good day, then you can have a good week. If you have a good week, then a good month. Then a good quarter and then a good year. It’s all interconnected.

How do you prioritize the different entities under your purview?

With the right people around you, the prioritization becomes clear. Only the big, hard decisions cross my desk – if it were easy, someone down the line would have solved it. So I’ve built a team I trust to execute on the moonshot goals I have for our company. We are in a growth mindset to create the most valuable regional sports and entertainment company in the world to have the resources to field championship-contending teams that can compete with organizations from big markets like New York and LA – and I really believe we can achieve that. It means each executive must serve as exemplars in their area of expertise and when presented with options requiring a decision, there’s an adage I apply: to thine own self be true. For me, that means doing things the right way and for the right reasons so I can stay focused on what matters most.

What does the recent partnership with D.C. and Mayor Bowser do for Monumental, from both a business perspective and the perspective of keeping the Capitals, Wizards and Mystics within the District?

The agreement is a win-win for both our organization and D.C. Reimagining Capital One Arena will allow us to continue to grow our business and expand our hospitality offerings in order to create a best-in-class experience for our fans, employees, and athletes. Our partnership with D.C. will allow us to revitalize downtown in an integrated way for our fans and the community, building a transformational entertainment district that is a destination and will ensure the vibrancy of downtown for years to come.

MSE has positioned Monumental Sports Network to be a successful RSN in an otherwise turbulent RSN environment. How have you ensured the network has real, long-term strength that could withstand such pressures?

Over the last year and a half, since buying back our local media rights from NBCUniversal, Monumental Sports Network has undergone an extensive transformation into a state-of-the-art, digital-first media platform. As the RSN landscape continues to fluctuate, we wanted to future proof our organization as media consumption changes, be in control of our own destiny and our IP, and create a media platform where we could distribute those rights via a variety of different channels. We’re concentrating on making our games as accessible as possible, maximizing the value of our rights, and delivering the best version of programming to fans. I’m confident that as an organization that owns our local media rights, we are uniquely positioned to provide our fans with compelling content that resonates with them across whatever current and future platforms the world holds.

A new broadcast studio. Solidified plans to stay in D.C. There have been major announcements in the Monumental world in the last few months. So, what’s next on your list of priorities?

We want to win more championships. We have a long-term view for building generationally great teams but acknowledge that in the short-term, we may not meet those high expectations which I have and which the fans have for us. Still, we will stay true to the work. And we are deep into planning for a transformational new arena which will lead the industry in next-generation fan experience with the greatest integrations and the latest technology.

What does Washington, D.C. mean to you?

My first time ever in Washington, D.C. was when I arrived at Georgetown University in the early 1970s. Now I’ve been in the area for the past 40+ years and have lived in D.C. and started businesses in D.C. It is my home and I am proud to be part of the revolution of downtown, especially in this post-pandemic era. But I’m most proud of running the largest scholarship nonprofit in the city which has provided millions in financial support to tens of thousands of D.C. students—many of whom are first in their family to go to college, as I was. It’s deeply meaningful work and I encourage all of those students to go out into the world and become educated—but come back to D.C. to take jobs, start businesses, and raise their families like I did.

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