By: Jacob Walters
There are very few owners that do what they can to make a league exciting. When such owners get that exciting player, it is even harder to surround that player with the appropriate talent. For Ted Leonsis, he was blessed with Alex Ovechkin. Not only did Leonsis make surrounding his star player with talent look so easy in the NHL, but in the NBA as well.
Born on January 8, 1957 in Brooklyn, New York, Leonsis is a former senior executive for America Online. Leonsis is the chairman, founder, and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment and owns the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals. Leonsis bought the Capitals in 1999 and became the majority owner of the Wizards in 2010. Leonsis is also the founder, chairman, and largest shareholder of SnagFilms, a content and technology company with a full-service video streaming platform, professional video and journalism content as well as established relationships with the creative community. Leonsis is also the owner of the Washington Mystics of the WNBA and has published works such as Blue Magic: The People, Power, and Politics Behind the IBM Personal Computer and The Business of Happiness: 6 Secrets to Extraordinary Success in Work and Life.
Leonsis is well-known for taking a fan-centric approach to ownership, addressing fan concerns through his email and personal website. One example is in 2013, when Leonsis received a letter about Jack Dibler, a lifelong Capitals fan who was diagnosed with esophagal cancer. Leonsis sent Dibler a package which included a signed Alexander Ovechkin jersey and a letter inviting Dibler and his family to a game. His fan-centric approach has shown great success, with the Capitals drawing a franchise-high 754,309 fans in 2010-2011.
Leonsis’s success with the Capitals stems far, with the Capitals winning ten Southeast Division titles, three President’s Trophies, recording more than 200 consecutive sellouts at Capital One Arena, and winning a Stanley Cup. How did Leonsis do it? By nabbing one of the NHL’s most exciting players in Ovechkin, of course! Formerly of Dynamo Moscow, Ovechkin has won it all, from Hart trophies to Olympic gold medals to the Stanley Cup. Ovechkin has become the league’s top left wing, while rivaling Sidney Crosby for the best NHL player in the modern era.
As for the Wizards, Leonsis has had some success as well. Washington went back to their traditional red, white, and blue color scheme from their Washington Bullets days. Washington has also found success during Leonsis’s tenure, with NBA All-Stars John Wall and Bradley Beal leading the way. Leonsis also served as chairman of the NBA’s 2014 media committee, where he led negotiations for a nine-year expanded partnership with Turner Broadcasting and the Walt Disney Company. Washington was also one of 22 teams invited to the NBA Bubble to partake in the final eight games of the 2019-2020 NBA regular season.
Leonsis has also done some charitable work to go with his sports success. In 2018, Leonsis donated $1.5 million to his alma mater, Georgetown University, to fund a program of student mentoring by alumni entrepreneurs in Washington. Leonsis also focuses a good deal of time on education and scholarships for under-privileged and first-generation college students, saying that being from a Greek immigrant family helped start up this endeavor. Leonsis also serves as board emeriti of Best Buddies and as chairman of DC-CAP. Best Buddies offers One-To-One friendship, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living programs for individuals with disabilities. DC-CAP is a college access program that provides counseling and financial assistance to students who never had the opportunity to attend or graduate from college. Leonsis also led the charge for Washington D.C.’s bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games for 2024. Unfortunately for Washington and Leonsis, the United States Olympic Committee selected Los Angeles, who lost the 2024 bid, but secured the bid for the 2028 Olympic Games. Leonsis also founded the Leonsis Foundation, which supports children overcoming obstacles and achieving their goals. Through the Leonsis Foundation, more than 400 charities were served and supported during the last 12 months.
Fans want owners who will listen to their inquiries. In Washington, football fans are dealing with a tone-deaf owner named Daniel Snyder, who only cares about his bank account. For basketball and hockey fans in Washington, they are more fortunate to have Ted Leonsis listening and learning to improve the on-field product. That is why Leonsis should be named the Best Owner of the 21st Century.