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Leonsis take over Wizards

Washington WizardsIt is the end of the Pollin era in Washington, as Ted Leonsis takes over total control of the Washington Wizards and the Verizon Center, giving him the bookend NHL and NBA teams as well.

Leonsis, who made his fortune when AOL was the dominant online service in the world, agreed on May 1 to buy the 56 percent of the Wizards and Verizon Center controlled by the Pollin family. Today the final hurdle — which wasn’t really much of a hurdle — was the approval by the NBA Board of Governors, which barely reached the level of formality.

The sale was brought about by the death of Abe Pollin, who owned the Wizards/Bullets franchise for 46 years and was one of the true pioneers of sports-franchise ownership. The team has been run by a trust since Pollin passed away Nov. 24.

“We are pleased that the NBA’s Board of Governors has approved Ted Leonsis’s purchase of majority ownership of the Wizards from the Pollin family,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern. “The transaction signifies the end of an era and a passing of the torch into very capable hands. We have long admired what Ted has done with the Washington Capitals in terms of sales, marketing and outreach in the community, and we look forward to him bringing those skills to bear for the Wizards.”

You probably won’t see big changes in how the Wizards are run; we’re guessing Leonsis had a lot of say over bringing in Flip Saunders as coach, and now Leonsis can make all the decisions regarding the draft (though the team’s choice is expected to be a no-brainer: Kentucky’s John Wall) and free-agent acquisitions. Leonsis has been successful running the Washington Capitals on his own; the team was expected to be a Stanley Cup contender before an early loss in the playoffs to the Montreal Canadiens.

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