BET's Johnson Bats for Expos, Sports Net

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Black Entertainment Television CEO Robert Johnson is looking to purchase Major League Baseball's Montreal Expos — a deal that could also include the launch of a new regional sports network in the Washington, D.C., market.

Johnson would team with Daniel Snyder, owner of the National Football League's Washington Redskins, to purchase 51 percent of the Expos and relocate the franchise — currently owned by MLB — to the Washington area, he said.

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

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, partially fund a new stadium and settle any discrepancies over potential market losses to the Baltimore Orioles, which draws baseball fans from the D.C. area.

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

"Under their [new] contract, they can't eliminate the team. The team is owned by [the owners], so all 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."

Representatives from Major League Baseball 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's board of governors last week tentatively agreed to create a Charlotte franchise for the 2004-2005 season.

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

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