Ted Leonsis Is In the Business of Making Grown Men Cry

Ted Leonsis

I recently had the privilege, courtesy of Jenny Shtipelman of EagleBank, of hearing Ted Leonsis speak at one of their exclusive events. Ted is the founder, chairman and majority owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns three professional sports teams – the Washington Capitals (NHL), the Washington Wizards (NBA) and the Washington Mystics (WNBA) – as well as Verizon Center. As usual, Ted was outstanding and made everyone feel as though he was having a one-on-one conversation with them. He offered plenty of great advice and hit on more topics than I can possibly cover here, but there are a few gems I’d like to share with you.

Last year while on his home treadmill, Ted happened upon a replay of the 1969 Jets-Colts Superbowl game on ESPN Classic. Growing up he had gone to Jets games with his father every Sunday (tickets were $7 then). That year, when he was just 12, they watched the Superbowl together on TV. Seeing the game again stirred up a host of memories not just of the game, but the entire experience: Sharing the moment with his father and calling all of their relatives afterward. Missing school to attend the ticker tape parade with his dad and 500,000 other New Yorkers. Ted became emotional and started to cry. Unfortunately for him, his wife came into the room to find him weeping on the treadmill and asked if everything was okay. His reply? “Joe Namath.” Then he told us, “This is the business I’m in. Making grown men cry, and creating memories that last 50 years.”

This story highlights one of my favorite things about this man: He understands that everything he does serves a much greater purpose than what may be perceived as the core offering. He gave two other examples that speak to this point:

  • He believes, and I happen to agree, that sports teams play a major role in the social and cultural fabric of a city. It would be hard for anyone in DC who recalls what 7th Street was like 15 years ago to argue. This once-depressed area is now responsible for $400M in tax revenue for the city!
  • He acknowledged that he is not in the sports business, but the media business. Read another way, he is in the business of communicating with his fans (clients). And he does so actively. He has 30,000 subscribers to his blog, and over 17,000 followers on Twitter.

While on the surface it may appear that Ted Leonsis’ business involves “just” owning the Caps, Wizards and Mystics, he is really in the media/economic development/making grown men cry business. All of these are part of The Business of Happiness – the name of his most recent book (which is well worth the read). Businesses of all kinds can benefit from taking this broader perspective, and in particular, embracing the idea of being in the media business, no matter what business you think you’re in.

So, what business are you in?


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