Ted Leonsis

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Theodore J. Leonsis
Ted Leonsis Head Shot 100113.jpg
Leonsis in 2013
Born Theodore John Leonsis
(1957-01-08) January 8, 1957 (age 57)
Brooklyn, New York
Residence Potomac, Maryland[1]
Nationality American
Alma mater Georgetown University
Occupation Owner, Chairman
Organization Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards, Washington Mystics, Verizon Center, SnagFilms, Revolution Money, Groupon
Net worth $1 billion[2]
Religion Greek Orthodox[3]
Website
tedstake.com

Theodore John Leonsis (born January 8, 1957) is a Greek- American sports team owner, venture capital investor, filmmaker, author, and philanthropist. He is a former senior executive with America Online (AOL). As the founder, chairman, and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, he is the majority owner of the National Hockey League's Washington Capitals, the National Basketball Association's Washington Wizards, the Women's National Basketball Association's Washington Mystics and the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. He is a founding member and investor in the Revolution Growth Fund,[4] which includes investments in FedBid, Resonate Insights, Optoro and CustomInk.[5][6] He is the founder and chairman of SnagFilms, which produced the documentary film Nanking. The film was honored with the 2009 News & Documentary Emmy Award. In 2010, he wrote the book, The Business of Happiness.

Personal background[edit]

Theodore John Leonsis was born on January 8, 1957 in Brooklyn, New York. He is the son of Greek American parents,[7] who worked as a waiter and a secretary.[8] He attended Brooklyn Technical High School, before moving to Lowell, Massachusetts, where he graduated from Lowell High School in 1973.[9] In 2005, he was honored as one of Lowell High School's Distinguished Alumni for reaching the highest level of accomplishment and possessing the highest standards of integrity and character.[citation needed] After graduating from Georgetown University in 1977,[10] he moved back to his parents' home in Lowell and began working for Wang Laboratories.[9]

In early 2011, Leonsis purchased a 13-acre estate in Potomac, Maryland. He acquired the property for $20 million after selling homes in McLean, Virginia and Vero Beach, Florida.[1] The 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2) estate was once the home of Joseph P. Kennedy,[11] summer home of Franklin Roosevelt,[12] and was owned by the Gore family from 1942 to 1995.[13] Leonsis purchased the home from Chris Rogers, a telecommunications executive[14] who acquired Leonsis' home in McLean.

Professional background[edit]

Leonsis speaking to the Tech Council of Maryland

AOL[edit]

In 1987, Leonsis established the marketing communications company, Redgate Communications Corporations.[15] When the organization was acquired by America Online (AOL) in 1994, Leonsis began working with AOL as a senior executive, remaining with the company for 13 years.[16] Under his leadership, AOL increased its membership from under 800,000 members to over 8 million, while their annual revenue increased from $100 million to $1.5 billion.[17] He held numerous positions at AOL during his years there, completing his tenure and retiring in 2006 as the audience group's president and vice-chairman.[18] As of 2014, he serves as vice chairman emeritus of AOL.[citation needed]

Monumental Sports & Entertainment[edit]

Leonsis is the founder, majority owner, chairman and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the NBA's Washington Wizards, NHL's Washington Capitals and the WNBA's Washington Mystics. Monumental Sports additionally owns the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.[19] and manages the Kettler Capitals Iceplex and George Mason University's Patriot Center.[20] Formed in 2010, Monumental Sports & Entertainment is the only privately held company in a top-10 market to own and operate three professional sports teams and its arena.[21] In January 2013 Monumental Sports & Entertainment launched Monumental Network, a digital platform that serves as a hub for Washington's sports and entertainment news.[22]

Management

Leonsis has a "hands on" approach to management of his sports teams.[23] After purchasing the Wizards, Leonsis criticized the NBA's salary cap at a luncheon with business leaders. He was fined $100,000 by the league, for "unauthorized public comments regarding the league's collective bargaining negotiations."[24] Leonsis has sought to roll-back changes to the Wizards and Capitals franchises that coincided with the opening of the Verizon Center in 1997. In 2007, he changed the Capitals team logo and its colors back to red, white, and blue and has done the same with the Wizards. In May 2011, the team unveiled new Wizards uniforms and logos, receiving positive responses from media, fans, players and alumni.[25] Additionally, he had taken under consideration returning their name to the Bullets,[26] though critics said that this would "send the wrong message" about gun violence in Washington.[27]

Washington Capitals

Leonsis has owned the Washington Capitals since the spring of 1999, and in that timeframe the team has won seven Southeast Division titles, a Presidents’ Trophy and has recorded more than 200 consecutive sellouts at Verizon Center.[21]

In the early years of his ownership, the Capitals went on to win back-to-back Southeast Division titles in 2000 and 2001, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In summer 2001, the Capitals traded for Jaromír Jágr and signed him to what was at the time, the largest contract in NHL history. The trade was enthusiastically well received by fans and over 300 people showed up at Dulles International Airport to greet Jágr when he arrived.[28] After Jágr was traded in 2004, Leonsis was criticized by fans.[29] He was involved in a physical altercation with a fan, who led a mocking chant of Leonsis during the game and hoisted a sign chiding him. In the altercation, Leonsis grabbed and threw the fan to the ground, which also caused a young child to fall to the ground. For his involvement in the scuffle, Leonsis was fined $100,000. He also received a suspension of one week, during which he was prohibited from having any contact with the team.[30] After the incident, Leonsis personally called the fan to apologize for his actions and invited him and his family to watch a game in the owner’s box.[31]

Leonsis watches Wizards player John Wall in 2010

In 2009, a season ticket holder informed Leonsis of a homeless man, Scott Lovell, who spent his nights sleeping outside Verizon Center. Leonsis found Lovell a part-time job as a restaurant kitchen worker and provided him with a paid and furnished apartment, a prosthetic leg and Capitals season tickets for life. In return, Lovell vowed to remain clean and sober.[32]

In 2010, journalist Damien Cox, author of the Ovechkin Project, a biography of Alexander Ovechkin, wrote that Leonsis was trying to circumvent the NHL's salary cap when signing Ovechkin's contract.[33] He also alleged that Leonsis was bribing bloggers for positive coverage of the Capitals.[34] Leonsis said that Cox was angry that he did not receive the access to Ovechkin that he wanted and defended his support for the league.[35]

During the 2009–2010 season, the Capitals earned the NHL's President's Trophy as the team that finished with the most points in the league during the regular season.[36]

The 2010–2011 season marked the highest attendance in franchise history, drawing 754,309 fans.[37] The Capitals, like other teams, have raised ticket prices in recent years.[38][39] In 2011, after raising ticket prices for the fourth consecutive year while shrinking the size of beers sold at the Verizon Center, he earned the nickname "Leon$i$".[40] In 2001, Leonsis claimed to have written a computer program that prevented Pittsburgh Penguins fans (the Capitals first-round opponent) from purchasing tickets online. When asked if the actions were unfair, Leonsis stated, "I don't care. I'm going to keep doing it."[41] Again in 2009, he received criticism for preventing visiting team fans from purchasing Capitals playoff tickets.[42]

In the face of community opposition, Leonsis has persisted with a plan to expand the billboards around the Verizon Center.[43] Critics said the signage would make the arena more garish and cheapen DC's Chinatown, Leonsis said it was necessary to raise an additional $20 to 30 million in annual revenue, and a sports expert explained that "an owner saddled with underperforming teams is under greater pressure to find income sources."[44][45][46] Leonsis persevered and in March 2013 construction of the new signs were announced.[45]

In 2013, Leonsis received a letter about Jack Dibler, a lifelong Capitals fan who had recently been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. In response, Leonsis sent Dibler a package that included a signed Alexander Ovechkin jersey and a letter inviting Dibler and his family to a game.[47]

Washington Wizards

Leonsis became the majority owner of the Washington Wizards in June 2010, inheriting a team that had 26 wins and 56 losses during the previous season.[48] Leonsis has taken a fan-centric approach to running the franchise, by listening and responding to the concerns of Wizards supporters through his email and personal website.[49] On May 10, 2011, the Wizards unveiled a new color scheme, uniforms and logo. The team reverted to its traditional red, white and blue colors. The uniforms are based very closely on those worn from 1974 to 1987, during the team's glory years.[50] During Leonsis’ tenure as owner, the Wizards have compiled a promising young nucleus of players, including John Wall (No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft), Bradley Beal (No. 3 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft) and Otto Porter Jr. (No. 3 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft). They have also acquired veterans like Nenê and Marcin Gortat via trade.[51][52]

SnagFilms[edit]

Leonsis is the founder and chairman of SnagFilms, which produces documentary films. His first production was the documentary Nanking, which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.[53] The film is based on the book The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang. It was honored with the 2008 Peabody Award and the 2009 News & Documentary Emmy Award for Best Historical Programming (Long Form).[54]

In 2008, Leonsis produced Kicking It, which is a documentary by Susan Koch about the 2006 Homeless World Cup. The film was narrated by actor Colin Farrell and featured residents of Afghanistan; Kenya; Dublin, Ireland; Charlotte, North Carolina; Madrid; and Saint Petersburg. The film premiered in January 2008 at the Sundance Film Festival.[citation needed]

A third documentary, A Fighting Chance, tells the story of Kyle Maynard, who became a nationally ranked wrestler, motivational speaker, and bestselling author, despite being born without arms or legs.[55]

In 2013, Leonsis produced the documentary Lost for Life, which explores juvenile offenders who have been sentenced to life without parole.[citation needed]

Venture Capital Endeavors[edit]

Leonsis is a cofounder and partner in Revolution Growth Fund II, which currently has made investments in eight companies: Bigcommerce, CustomInk, Echo360, FedBid, Lolly Wolly Doodle, Optoro, Resonate and sweetgreen. In a 25-year period he has personally made investments and owned equity in numerous companies, including Groupon, Google, AOL, Revolution Money, AddThis, Preview Travel (Travelocity), GridPoint, Inside.com (formerly Mahalo), MobilePosse, ObjectVideo, SB Nation, Zedge, Triporati, Personal, I-Village, Proxicom, ePals, SnagFilms, MediaBank, Two Harbors, Videology, Algentis, Social Radar and Forbes’ Startle travel guide.[56]

Philanthropy[edit]

Leonsis is the founder of the Leonsis Foundation, which supports children "overcome obstacles and achieve their goals".[57] He is also a mentor through the Hoop Dreams program,[58] while additionally contributing to the See Forever Foundation and YouthAIDS.[59] Through the Leonsis Foundation, his sports teams and the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, SnagFilms and his family’s personal giving, more than 400 charities were served and supported during 2013. These charities and causes include Best Buddies, DC Central Kitchen, See Forever Foundation, Venture Philanthropy Partners, Street Soccer USA, YouthAIDS, GlobalGiving.org, DC-CAP, D.C. College Success Foundation, Potomac School, Georgetown University, Children’s Hospital, Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association, Salvation Army Angle Tree, Alliance for Lupus Research, Serve DC, Fort Dupont Ice Arena and Ice Hockey Club, USO of Metropolitan Washington, Capital Area Food Bank, Flashes of Hope, Inova Health System Foundation, UNICEF, obesity prevention and numerous local schools, cancer research and awareness programs.[56]

Board membership[edit]

Honors and awards[edit]

  • 2001: Businessperson of the Year – Washington Business Journal[64] and
  • 2001: Washingtonian of the Year – Washingtonian Magazine[65]
  • 2009: Washington's Tech Titans – Washingtonian Magazine[66]
  • 2010: Washington Business Hall of Fame – Junior Achievement of Greater Washington[67]
  • 2010: John Carroll Award – Georgetown University[68]
  • 2013: Virginia's 50 most influential people – Virginia Business magazine[69]
  • 2013: No. 1 Sports PowerPlayer in Maryland[70]

Published works[edit]

  • Leonsis, Ted (1984). Software Master for the IBM PC (128k), Warner Software, 323 pages. ISBN 978-0446381253
  • Leonsis, Ted (1984). Software Master for Pes: Apple Version (48k), Warner Software. ISBN 978-0446381772
  • Chposky, James; and Ted Leonsis (1988). Blue Magic: The People, Power and Politics Behind the IBM Personal Computer, Facts on File Publications, 228 pages. ISBN 978-0816013913
  • Leonsis, Ted (2010). The Business of Happiness: 6 Secrets to Extraordinary Success in Work and Life, Regnery Publishing, 256 pages. ISBN 978-1596981140

References[edit]

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External links[edit]