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Ledecky-Led Group to Bid For Nationals

Wednesday, April 20, 2005; Page D02

Washington entrepreneur Jonathan Ledecky yesterday announced the formation of Big Train Holdco and two new partners who will join him in a bid to purchase the Washington Nationals. Ledecky is the general partner of Big Train Holdco.

"We have members now with three major areas of expertise: sports ownership experience, real estate experience and media experience," Ledecky said yesterday during a telephone call introducing his new partners.

The new partners are Marc S. Cohn, a New York-based commercial real estate developer and investor, and ABRY Partners LLC, a Boston-based private equity firm specializing in media investments.

Ledecky, 47, is a local businessman who was co-owner of the Washington Capitals and owned a minority interest in MCI Center, the Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics. He sold his interests in the Washington teams at a hefty profit and said yesterday that for the last several years he has wanted to purchase a controlling interest in a major league sports team.

Ledecky said his business and philanthropic ties to Washington are an asset to his bid to buy the Nationals.

"I'm the only bidder with prior sports ownership experience in my home town," Ledecky said. Citigroup is providing the financing for Big Train, while Game Plan LLC, a Boston area investment bank specializing in sports acquisitions, is the group's adviser.

Big Train is one of eight groups that have been publicly identified as bidding on the Nationals, who were purchased by Major League Baseball's 29 owners for $120 million in February 2002, when the team was known as the Montreal Expos.

The other groups include a partnership between Yusef Jackson, son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and California investor Ronald Burkle; a consortium of Northern Virginia businessmen led by William Collins; a group of Washington businessmen led by Fred Malek and Jeffrey Zients; the Lerner family, who run a Bethesda-based real estate empire; financier Franklin Haney; broadcasting mogul Jeffrey Smulyan of Indianapolis; and Stan Kasten, former president of the Atlanta Braves.

-- Thomas Heath

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