The Washington Nationals announced on Monday morning that the team’s founding managing principal owner, Ted Lerner, passed away on Sunday at the age of 97.
Lerner died at his Chevy Chase, MD home due to complications of pneumonia.
Lerner, a billionaire real estate developer, helped bring the Nationals to Washington from Montreal for $450 million. During his time as owner, the Nationals went from last to a World Series-winning team in 2019. The Lerners also opened Nationals Park in 2008 in the Navy Yard area of DC.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Founding Managing Principal Owner, Theodore N. Lerner. pic.twitter.com/l8rKD6KE8E
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) February 13, 2023
Lerner is survived by his beloved wife of 71 years, Annette Morris Lerner; his children Mark D. Lerner (Judy) and Debra Lerner Cohen (Edward), and Marla Lerner Tanenbaum (Robert); his nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Ted was the managing principal owner until ceding the role to his son Mark in 2018.
He spoke at the team’s championship parade in 2019, telling fans could now call him “Grandpa Shark.”
“It’s been a very great day for the Washington Nationals,” Lerner said then. “They say good things come to those who wait. Ninety-five years is a pretty long wait. But I’ll tell you, this is worth the wait.”
Ted Lerner is the reason baseball came back to DC after 33 years.
Thank you, Ted.
Rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/FCgEchEYmO
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) February 13, 2023
In 2022, the family began exploring a sale of the team. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, a friend of the family, was reportedly the front-runner to land the team though progress on a sale has appeared to slow.
“RIP Ted Lerner,” Leonsis wrote on Twitter. “Built this city, built Tysons Corner. The Lerner name is impeccable everywhere. He won a World Series for the fans of the @Nationals. Family First. Husband, father, grandfather, great-grand father, business icon and GIANT. Will never be another like Mr. Ted Lerner.”
RIP Ted Lerner. Built this city, built Tysons Corner. The Lerner name is impeccable everywhere. He won a World Series for the fans of the @Nationals. Family First. Husband, father, grandfather, great-grand father, business icon and GIANT. Will never be another like Mr. Ted Lerner https://t.co/z0T1ClVvvO
— Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis) February 13, 2023
Ryan Zimmerman also posted a tribute on his Instagram page.
“I know how much holding this (World Series) trophy together in 2019 meant to you and your family, as it did mine,” Zimmerman wrote. “A father, philanthropist, entrepreneur and boss, you cherished this franchise and what it meant to DC. You embraced the American dream and worked hard to build an empire. On behalf of every player, past and present, thank you for leading by example with such quiet class and humility ❤️ RIP”
The Nationals’ full press release is below:
WASHINGTON NATIONALS MOURN THE LOSS OF FOUNDING MANAGING PRINCIPAL OWNER THEODORE N. LERNER
It is with great sadness that the Washington Nationals today announce the passing of Founding Managing Principal Owner, Theodore N. Lerner.
Mr. Lerner is survived by his beloved wife of 71 years, Annette Morris Lerner; his children Mark D. Lerner (Judy) and Debra Lerner Cohen (Edward) of Washington, D.C., and Marla Lerner Tanenbaum (Robert) of Bethesda, Maryland; his nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
From his humble beginnings as an usher in Washington D.C.’s old Griffith Stadium, to the ushering in of a new era of championship baseball in his hometown, Mr. Lerner literally and figuratively built a legacy through his signature mix of tenacity and humility. Guided by love for his family and passion for his hometown, Mr. Lerner dedicated his life to the creation of a better city and a winning ball club.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Lerner was a graduate of the George Washington University and had a law degree from the George Washington University National Law Center. In 1952, he founded Lerner Enterprises, which went on to become one of the largest private real estate development companies in the D.C. area. Mr. Lerner was named Managing Principal Owner of the Washington Nationals on May 3, 2006, and worked tirelessly from that day forward to build a world-class baseball team in his beloved Washington, D.C. He created the framework that brought the 2019 World Series to the nation’s capital, and the championship ball club he helped create stands as a reminder of the love he had for this great game and the passion he had for giving back to his hometown.
In addition to his many accomplishments in business and in sports, Mr. Lerner championed the creation of opportunities for all residents of the region and was instrumental in the foundation of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, which provides year-round programming and resources in one of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods. Mr. Lerner led by example through his family’s own private philanthropy and set the tone for the ball club’s company-wide culture of giving, which still extends into the clubhouse, front office and in the stands. He was honored with the Washington Nationals Philanthropies “Power of Baseball Award” in 2022 in recognition of the many ways he’s improved the city of Washington, D.C. and the lives of its residents.
A founding member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Mr. Lerner was awarded the Golden Plate Award of Excellence from the American Academy of Achievement in 1990. He was a member of the Washington Business Hall of Fame (2003), The George Washington University School of Business Sports Executives Hall of Fame (2007), Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington Sports Hall of Fame (2007) and Washington D.C. Sports Hall of Fame (2014). He received the Thomas G. Corcoran Award by the University Club of D.C in 2014, and in 2015 was awarded the Urban Land Institute Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2018, The Lerner · Cohen · Tanenbaum family received the Pollin Humanitarian Award from the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington.
Photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals
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