Alums vie for ownership of Nationals

Four GW alumni are taking part in the process to buy the Washington Nationals baseball team, which will probably be sold by the end of October.

GW graduates Bill Collins, who was a player for the Milwaukee Brewers farm organization; Colin Powell, the secretary of state in President George W. Bush’s first administration; Russell W. Ramsey and Theodore Lerner, both members of GW’s Board of Trustees, are all part of groups looking to buy the team. There are eight organizations vying for ownership.

In 2002, the 29 major league baseball teams temporarily purchased the Montreal Expos for $120 million and moved the team to D.C., creating the Nationals.

The Associated Press reported that the franchise has skyrocketed in value to between $300 million and $450 million, because of the team’s on-field success and popularity among D.C. residents. The Nationals rank 12th in attendance among major league teams, averaging a crowd of 34,000 per game.

Bob DuPuy, MLB’s chief operating officer, recently stated that he hoped the new owner would be selected by Labor Day. However, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said the league hopes to have the sale finalized by late October so that the new owners can take over before the beginning of next season.

Courtney said an ownership committee oversees the selection process for a new buyer before submitting their recommendation to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Three-fourths of the league’s teams must then approve the sale. He said the commission will consider much more than which group throws down the most money for the team.

“We certainly consider the financial aspect and amount of money offered, but we don’t want everybody spending every dime in the club and having nothing on the backside,” Courtney said. “We consider the overall picture, financial structure, marketing, group partners and relationship with the community.”

The Nationals may soon have a closer relationship with the GW community. Collins, who graduated in 1972, is leading one such group with Albert Lord, chairman of Sallie Mae. They are being reviewed by the ownership committee.

Even at GW, Collins had baseball aspirations in the Washington area. He was the starting catcher on the University’s baseball team until he graduated and was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers but never made the major leagues, instead making it up to the organization’s AA team. Collins works in the telecommunications industry and is the chair of the Virginia Baseball Club, and still contributes to University sports teams.

“He has been the driving force behind the GW annual baseball golf tournament, the GW Baseball Homerun Classic, for nine years,” said Ed McKee, director of University sports media and campus/community relations.

Ramsey, who serves on the Board of Trustees, also played baseball for GW and graduated in 1981. He is the chairman, CEO and CIO of Ramsey Asset Management, a consulting firm for investors. He also founded the Washington Baseball Club, which campaigned for baseball’s return to D.C.

Lerner, also looking to purchase the team, serves as the principal of Lerner Enterprises, a real estate organization that has developed several high-profile office complexes in and around D.C. The Lerner Health and Wellness Center was named in his honor after GW received a $5 million donation from his family.

The Lerner family has also attempted to purchase the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Orioles. Mark Lerner, Theodore Lerner’s son, is also a partial owner of the Washington Capitals.

Powell, who graduated with a master’s in business in 1971, has teamed up with a former partial owner of the Texas Rangers and an advisor under President Clinton to bid for the team.

Even if none of the four graduates end up with some ownership of the team, GW will still have several strong ties to the baseball team. Steve Roche, a senior in the School of Media and Public Affairs, works with the Nationals’ mascot Screech, and is a member of the Nat Pack. Other GW students intern with the team, and the University frequently offers ticket deals to games.

“Thanks to the enthusiasm and aggressiveness of the students, we already have a great relationship with the Nationals,” said Michael Freedman, vice president for Communications who has season tickets to the group. “We’ll have internships and discounts whether a GW connection owns the team or not.”

Joe Bondi, director of alumni constituency initiatives, said having an owner with ties to the University should only enhance the relationship, Given the potential owners’ philanthropy to the University in the past, coupled with the enthusiastic GW student and faculty involvement with the Nationals in only their first year,

He said, “We would hope to capitalize on a GW relationship if the owner was alum or relation to the University.”

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