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Pollin Family Agrees to Sell NBA’s Wizards to Leonsis

Ted Leonsis
Ted Leonsis, vice chairman emeritus of Time Warner Inc.'s America Online unit, listens during an interview in Arlington, Virginia, in this file photo. Photographer: Dennis Brack/Bloomberg

The family of late Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin reached an agreement to sell its stake in the team and its arena to a group led by minority owner Ted Leonsis.

Pollin’s widow, Irene, and their sons, Robert and James, reached an accord on the “major economic terms” to sell the National Basketball Association franchise, the Verizon Center and some related sports businesses to Leonsis and his partners at Lincoln Holdings LLC, the Pollin family said in a statement released by the Wizards.

Leonsis said in an e-mail that he wouldn’t have any comment about the matter until the agreement is final.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The Wizards are worth $313 million, according to Forbes magazine, ranking 19th among the NBA’s 30 franchise.

Leonsis, 53, a former AOL vice chairman, said in November that he intended to exercise his exclusive right to purchase the remainder of the Wizards following Pollin’s death on Nov. 24.

Leonsis is majority owner and chairman of closely held Lincoln Holdings, which bought 44 percent of Pollin’s Washington Sports & Entertainment LP in 1999. That company’s assets include the Wizards, the Verizon Center and the Ticketmaster franchise in Baltimore and Washington.

“We join our mother Irene, the sole principal owner of the franchise today, in congratulating Ted Leonsis and his Lincoln Holdings partners on reaching this near-final step in a long negotiation,” the family said in the statement.

Bullets Days

Abe and Irene Pollin bought the franchise, then known as the Baltimore Bullets, in 1964, making their tenure as owners the longest in NBA history. The team moved to Washington in 1974 and won an NBA championship in 1978.

“First and foremost, this is a moment at which we wish to honor Abe Pollin, our late father, and all that he accomplished along with our mother Irene Pollin in the world of professional sports,” the family said in the statement.

Leonsis stepped down from day-to-day activity at Time Warner Inc.’s AOL in 2006 after 15 years with the company. He now holds the title of vice chairman emeritus.

Lincoln Holdings, an investment partnership among Leonsis and 10 other area business leaders, purchased the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals from Pollin in 1999 and the Washington Mystics of the Women’s NBA six years later.

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