Ted Leonsis held a press conference today to announce that the sale of the Wizards to him and his partners has been finalized. Leonsis and his team now owns the Wizards, Capitals, Verizon Center, Mystics and the Washington branch of Ticketmaster. He also announced that his group, Lincoln Holdings, has merged with Washington Sports and Entertainment to form a new company known as "Monumental Sports and Entertainment."
Some other highlights from today's press conference:
- Leonsis said the value of the combined assets is actually $825 million, not the $550 million figure that's been reported.
- He said his goal with the Wizards was to build a "generational great team," and strongly believes that must be done through young talent. He said he looked at the last seven NBA champions and found that six of them were anchored by a home-grown No. 1 or No. 2 pick. Leonsis also said he believes he can build the Wizards faster than he did the Capitals, and added that he thinks it's easier to build around young talent in the NBA because there are fewer roster spots.
- He began with this: "I will pay the appropriate amount of homage to the past, but we have to change."
- Leonsis paused at first when asked about Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards star that recently spent 30 days in a halfway house for felony gun possession. However, Leonsis said that "it is very important that he is re-embraced as a person and a player." He added that he's talked to Arenas several times, both in person and via e-mail, and that he "kind of likes the guy." Arenas, Leonsis said, understands what he needs to do and he expects him to do it.
- If you were hoping the Wizards would be a big free-agent player this year, because they have the cap space, don't expect much. While Leonsis did not say he has made a final decision, he did say that "the money's not burning a hole in my pocket. I've experienced empty-calorie, make-news with these things before, and they didn't have happy endings." He said he doesn't see many NBA teams winning titles due to signing other teams' max free agent, and added that he's "not interested in going after any free agent we can't get just to make the news."
- More on 2010: "Ten years ago, I'd be firing up jets, but I just think it's hard to build [that way]. I'm not interested in just making a news splash"
- Leonsis did talk about everyone's favorite topic: a name and color change! He began by saying "I'm shocked that with all that we have to do, that's been the number one e-mail, message board conversation," and reaffirmed that there will be no name change. However, he did hint that "at some point," the team would go back to "more traditional colors," adding that he's a huge fan of red.
- Finally, Caps fans, don't worry, Leonsis firmly believes he can manage both teams, and made it a point to tell Caps fans that he's as committed to bringing a Stanley Cup to D.C. as he is an NBA title. In fact, Leonsis said he wants all three teams he owns (Wizards, Mystics, Capitals) to have titles down the road.
More to come later...