Nats ownership officially transfers to Lerner group

NEW YORK -- The Washington Nationals on Monday announced the official transfer of ownership from Major League Baseball to a group headed by local real estate magnate Ted Lerner.

The sale was officially approved by the baseball owners on May 18.

The Lerner group won the bidding war over groups headed by Washington businessmen Fred Malek and Jeffrey Zients and Indianapolis radio tycoon Jeff Smulyan, the former owner of the Seattle Mariners.

"It has long been my dream to bring the national pastime back to my hometown, the nation's capital," Lerner said. "Now that it's been realized, I plan on doing everything I can to make sure that this franchise becomes an international jewel for MLB, D.C. and the nation."

The Nationals were purchased by the Lerner group for $450 million.

"I am extremely pleased to welcome the Lerner family and their partners into Major League Baseball," commissioner Bud Selig said. "As I've come to know Ted and his family better over the past several weeks, I'm more certain than ever that they will provide the kind of committed and stable ownership that will help this franchise flourish in the D.C. area for years and years to come."

Major League Baseball emphasized the need for strong local and diverse ownership, a requirement that was met by the Lerner Group. Lerner and his son Mark were born and raised in the Washington, D.C., area while his sons-in-law, Edward L. Cohen and Robert K. Tanenbaum, are longtime residents.

The Lerner group includes former Atlanta Braves executive Stan Kasten.

Jim Bowden will remain as general manager, and he named Mike Rizzo as assistant general manager and vice president of baseball operations on Monday.

"Under new ownership and the leadership of Stan Kasten, I have been given the approval and resources to hire the best and brightest the baseball industry has to offer, and today's hiring of Mike exemplifies this," Bowden said.

Rizzo, 45, joins the Nationals after spending the previous seven seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, primarily as director of scouting.

MLB's other 29 clubs bought the then-Montreal Expos from Jeffrey
Loria for $120 million in 2002 as part of a complicated transaction in which Loria bought the Florida Marlins and John Henry purchased the Boston Red Sox.

MLB moved the Expos to Washington before the 2005 season and started to accept bids for the National League franchise in June 2005.