News

Johnson Eyes Expos, Regional Net

10/10/2002 6:32 AM Eastern

Black Entertainment Television CEO Robert Johnson is pursuing a deal to
purchase the Montreal Expos Major League Baseball franchise, which also includes
the potential launch of a new regional sports network.

Johnson would team up with the National Football League's Washington Redskins
owner Daniel Snyder to purchase 51 percent of the Expos and relocate the
franchise -- currently owned by MLB -- to the Washington, D.C., area, according
to Johnson.

Along with the development of a new stadium, the deal would also include the
creation of a new regional sports network to rival Baltimore-based Comcast
SportsNet.

Johnson would not specify how much he would pay for the team, but industry
sources estimated that it would cost at least $400 million to purchase and run
the franchise, to partially fund a new stadium and to settle any discrepancies
over potential market losses to MLB's Baltimore Orioles, which draw from a
sizable D.C.-area fan base.

Johnson -- who in the past has pursued ownership interests in the National
Basketball Association's Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets (now New
Orleans Hornets) -- said the deal would help baseball to rid itself of a
money-losing franchise.

'Under their contract, they can't eliminate the team. The team is owned by
[the owners], so all of the team owners are underwriting about $30 million worth
of loss,' Johnson said.

'I was proposing a solution that would allow [baseball] to cut their losses
by selling [51 percent] at the Montreal valuation and recouping part of that at
the team's Washington, D.C., valuation when they sold the remaining 49 percent,'
he added.

MLB representatives would not comment on Johnson's proposal.

Johnson also said he's interested in owning a proposed NBA franchise in
Charlotte, N.C. The league board of governors last week tentatively agreed to
create a Charlotte franchise for the 2004-05 season.

Last March, Johnson's bid to purchase the then-Charlotte Hornets was thwarted
by team owners George Shinn and Ray Wooldridge, who eventually moved the team to
New Orleans.

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