Kings of Leonsis

Ted Leonisis
There are few owners as successful as Ted Leonsis, the billionaire former AOL executive turned D.C. sports impresario who owns the Capitals, Mystics, Wizards, and the Capital One Arena. Photo: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
John Ourand
May 23, 2024

Owning a sports franchise—the most exclusive item in the billionaire trophy case—has become a vastly more profitable enterprise in recent years. Private equity firms, sovereign wealth funds, and celebrities are all fighting for ownership stakes. What was once a vanity asset is now a massive, global business that promises enviable tax-advantaged returns and fabulous rent-seeking economics. Mark Cuban, who just sold his majority stake in the Mavericks for $4.5 billion, netted a nearly 1,500 percent return on his $285 million investment. Dan Snyder, who paid $800 million for Washington’s NFL team in 1999 and spent the next two decades running the franchise into the ground, offloaded the team to a group led by Josh Harris for over $6 billion.

Of course, there are few owners as successful as Ted Leonsis, the billionaire former AOL executive turned D.C. sports impresario who owns the Capitals, Mystics, Wizards, and the Capital One Arena (oh, and he recently said he’s going to make another run at the Washington Nationals, too). When he joined the NBA ownership ranks, in 1999, alongside Cuban, teams were just beginning to view media as the biggest growth area. Now, real estate is starting to come back in vogue, as Cuban noted when he sold the Mavs.