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Ted Lerner, Legendary Real Estate Developer And Nationals Owner, Dies At 97

Ted Lerner, who shaped the suburbs of Washington, D.C., with his real estate development firm before buying the Washington Nationals and bringing the city a World Series championship, died Sunday at the age of 97.

Ted Lerner with his wife, Annette, in 2009.

Lerner was a native Washingtonian who founded his real estate company, Lerner Enterprises, in 1952. He died at his Chevy Chase, Maryland, home following complications from pneumonia, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Bisnow has reached out to Lerner Enterprises for comment.

Since its founding, Lerner Enterprises has built some of the most recognizable shopping centers in the region, including Dulles Town Center in Northern Virginia and Wheaton Center in Montgomery County, the sixth-largest mall in the country when it opened in 1962, per the company's website.

Lerner also developed Tysons Corner Center, which remains the largest mall in the region. The mall redefined the area now known as Tysons, where Lerner Enterprises owns nearly 2M SF of office space with more mixed-use development planned.

Lerner changed the fate of a waterfront D.C. neighborhood following his $450M purchase of the Washington Nationals franchise in 2006 after its move to the District. Nationals Park opened in Navy Yard in 2008, and in the years since, the neighborhood has transformed into one of the hottest multifamily and office submarkets in D.C.  

Lerner's firm has been a part of that transition, building a 190K SF office at 20 M St. SE and a 244-unit apartment building at 1000 South Capitol St.

The Nationals posted a tribute video on Twitter Monday with the caption, “Ted Lerner is the reason baseball came back to DC after 33 years. Thank you, Ted. Rest in peace.” The video includes clips of Lerner speaking.

“Everything I’ve worked for is about striving for excellence and building for future generations,” Lerner said in the video. “In that way, it’s not about the properties at all; it’s about community, it’s about the future.” 

MRP Realty Managing Principal Bob Murphy, a D.C. real estate leader whose firm owns a large portfolio across the region, said Lerner left an "amazing legacy" with "many contributions to the Washington, D.C., community."

"From malls to office buildings to apartments to professional sports. A class man who built class properties and a class organization,” Murphy said in a statement to Bisnow

Chip Akridge, another leading D.C. developer, told Bisnow Monday he will remember Lerner for his competitiveness and his positive impact on the D.C. region.  

“He was a titan,” Akridge said. “He was a friend. He was a fierce competitor. I didn’t mind competing with him because he was a fair competitor. We had plenty of times we went head to head, but always came away from whatever issue it was friends.”  

“He’s built millions of square feet all over the region, and as far as I know all of them were successful, including his purchase of the Nationals, which has been a great success for him and his family," Akridge added. "He’s an icon of the community, and we mourn his loss.”

Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals and Wizards, said on Twitter Monday that there “will never be another like Mr. Ted Lerner.”  

“RIP Ted Lerner. Built this city, built Tysons Corner,” Leonsis said in a tweet. “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.”

Lerner's ownership of the Nationals culminated in a World Series victory in 2019, ending a nearly centurylong professional baseball championship drought for the District. 

In the years since, the Lerners have reportedly mulled a sale of the franchise. Ted Lerner is survived by his wife and three children. His son, Mark Lerner, is managing principal owner of Lerner Enterprises and principal owner of the Nationals.

UPDATE, FEB. 13, 2:15 P.M. ET: This story has been updated with additional comments.