June 8 (Bloomberg) -- The sale of the Washington Wizards to a group led by Ted Leonsis was unanimously approved by the National Basketball Association’s Board of Governors.
The family of late Wizards owner Abe Pollin reached an agreement in April to sell its stake in the Wizards, the Verizon Center and some related sports business properties to Leonsis and his partners at Lincoln Holdings LLC.
Leonsis, a former AOL Inc. vice chairman, bought 44 percent of Pollin’s Washington Sports & Entertainment LP in 1999 and exercised his exclusive right to buy the remaining interest in the Wizards following Pollin’s death in November. Leonsis, 53, also owns the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals.
“The transaction signifies the end of an era and a passing of the torch into very capable hands,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement. “We have long admired what Ted has done with the Washington Capitals in terms of sales, marketing and outreach in the community.”
Abe and Irene Pollin bought the Wizards, 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 the NBA championship in 1978.
The transfer of ownership comes before the NBA’s June 24 draft and free-agent signing period, which begins July 1. Leonsis and Irene Pollin represented the Wizards at the NBA’s draft lottery last month, when the franchise won the No. 1 pick and the opportunity to take University of Kentucky point guard John Wall. The Wizards, who had a 26-56 record last season, have about $20 million in salary cap space this offseason for player acquisitions.
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