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  •   Abe Pollin, Ted Leonsis Press Conference

    Compiled by Bryan Tucker Correspondent
    Web Posted: Wednesday, May 12, 1999; 11:30 p.m. EST

    Abe Pollin | Ted Leonsis

    Abe Pollin
    Opening Comments
    First, let me say I am in perfect health. The good Lord has been good to me and I am very grateful. I had a complete physical just last week and came out in flying colors. Secondly, I am 75 years old and I have decided at this time in my life to spend a little less time in sports and a little more time doing things for folks that are less fortunate than I am.

    To that end, my family and I have been considering for many, many months how would we achieve the goals that I am looking for. We agonized over this decision for a long time. Firstly, we did not want to repeat of the mess the Redskins went through in their transition. What we did is talk to our two sons, Irene and I. Both of them said that they have their own careers. Both of them said they are very happy in their own careers and both of them said they would not give up their careers to come into my business.

    Having decided that, we decided we would have to do something to protect the MCI Center, the Capitals and the Wizards for this area. We decided that we would have to find somebody to join us who would be the kind of person that we look for. The kind of person who is a) a member of this community and b) who believes in giving back to the community like I have.

    We were talked to a lot of people, met with a lot of people and there was one person who stood up among all of them and you will meet that person shortly. We needed to preserve the MCI Center, the Capitals and the Wizards. These are precious assets and we want to preserve those assets for this community and we had to find right person to make sure those assets would be preserved.

    So having met various folks, we decided that this gentleman would be the one to become my partner. I have decided to sell the Washington Capitals to this gentleman and I would also sell him a minority interest in the Washington Sports and Entertainment. The Washington Sports and Entertainment owns the MCI Center, the Wizards, US Airways Arena and Ticketmaster.

    Someday, when I decide to call it quits, he will have first and last crack to own it all. That's why we had to make sure we had the right guy.

    I want to stress here and now that I am not retiring. I never plan to retire. I'm going to be actively involved and in control of the Wizards, the MCI Center, Ticketmaster and US Airways Arena.

    My goal is to bring another NBA championship here to Washington and we are not going to quit until we do it. My hope and my prayer is that I will be able to spend more time and a little bit more money that I have now to be involved with doing things for people less fortunate that we are. ...

    I'm really looking forward to working with Ted as my partner and I know deep in my heart than Ted and I will have a great partnership, and it will be a win-win situation for both of us.

    Q: Why this year instead of last year after the Stanley Cup finals?
    A: I had thought about this for a long time, and last year when the hockey team went to the finals I had really made up my mind that I wanted to go out on top and it took a little longer than I had expected.

    Q: Just to clarify, your role with the Wizards and the MCI Center will remain the same?
    A: I still have controlling interest in those areas. But I will be sharing with Ted and his partners. I might be 75 years old but I am not too old to learn. I'm sure he'll have something that he can add, good advice and we will work together and to bring his new ideas not only to the Capitals but to the whole organization.

    Q: What are some of your most memorable moments as owner of the Capitals?
    A: One of the most memorable moments I had was when Irene and I were at the Caribbean, and I knew exactly what time the game would be over. I called and the Capitals beat the Montreal Canadiens for the first time and you all would remember that in 1974 the Capitals won a total of eight games. Beating the Montreal Canadiens, I talked to every player, coach, trainer and general manager and congratulated them and I had them save the puck for me. ... And last year going to the Stanley Cup finals was like a dream come true. ... We've had some success but going to the finals was the highlight of my career of 25 years. This franchise meant a lot and still means an awful lot to me. I gave birth to this franchise in 1972, I nurtured it and it's been a part of my life. That's why I had to find the right person and that's Ted.

    Ted Leonsis
    It is really an honor and a pleasure to be here at MCI Center and to be welcomed to this extended family. Mr. Pollin calls it the capital family and when he first started to talk to me about extended families at first I thought it was a bunch of platitudes, to be honest with you.

    As I come to know him, his wife and two children, this is a man with unbelievable integrity and really wants to do the right thing for the community and for the people around him.

    I can really learn a lot from an individual like this, who has competed and built something of incredible value against a lot of odds in this day and age where faceless corporations are managing and owning sports teams. To have an individual able to build a sports arena like this downtown and really truly and honestly not just say he is all about the community but to live it with everything he does is an honor. I have to say that is a dream come true.

    My two partners, Dick Patrick, who has searching information on him on the Web is a part of the royal family of hockey in Canada. The Patrick Division is named after his family and I looked him in the eye and said 'Why are you doing this Dick?' He said 'Well, to be frank, four or five of my family members have their name on the Cup, and I want my name to be on the Cup.' I said that is the right reason and that is the best motivation to want to be a partner to be in the business that you have to win, you can't have a bad day and results matter and you can't go into any of these endeavors without thinking of being the best you can be.

    My second partner has become one of my best friends, Jonathan Ledecky. Jon is really a true mench, he is a local entrepreneur who started a bunch of companies locally and really has given back to the community. We both grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. What we hope to do is 1) to focus on building the Capitals organization into winners. The Capitals have done quite well – 15 of 17 years in the playoffs – but they have not able to get through to the finish line. So we are very, very focused on 1) putting a great and very entertaining product on the ice. Building an organization that can generationally can continue to win and really do the work that Mr. Pollin has helped us and mended us to do, which is to do the right thing and do it in the right way.

    We are very committed, we know what odds are in front of us. We have our eyes wide open, we understand what is going on with the league and the economics that are before us. But John and I, along with Dick, can make a difference and we are very personally committed to the community and to bring this great city championships. ... We are going to personally commit to this community and I will personally meet every season-ticket holder, I will meet every single employee in this group, and we very committed to bringing excellence and a real winner to this organization.

    Q: Can you talk about your plans for the Capitals?
    A: It's premature to do specific plans but my experience at American Online. The heart of everything you do is the consumer and in this case the fan and being a very high-touch organization I think will be critical. Mr. Pollin has built two unbelievable media brands and everything we do is the Capitals will be more entertainment. The teams that we will try to put in place under Dick's leadership will be ones to entertain the fans and try to go as fast as you can to win the Cup. We are in this to win. We are doing this personally and we only have one goal and that is to win.

    Q: Will Dick Patrick increase his role in the day-to-day operations?
    A: Yes. John and I will be the guys rooting, eating the hot dogs and touching the fans. Mr. Pollin is running the main part of the business. Dick is president and in charge of the Capitals, and I'll be in the fat guy with the cigar in the owner's box yelling and screaming.

    © Copyright 1999

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