Billionaire Michael B. Kim Eyes a Potential Purchase of the Washington Nationals

No timeframe on sale but “exploratory process” well underway.

While still relatively early in the process, Michael Byung Ju Kim (founder of private equity firm MBK Partners) is one of only two potential bidders who have met with team officials in person, according to the Washington Post.

If Kim, whose personal net worth is valued at $7.7 billion, becomes the new majority owner of the Nationals, he would be only the second Asian owner of a Major Baseball League team. Kim would then join a rarified group of only four other Asians who currently own a majority stake of a US professional sports team: Korean-American Kim Pegula (Buffalo Bills (NFL) & Buffalo Sabres (NHL), Pakistani-American Shahid Khan (Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL), Indian-American Vivek Ranadive (Sacramento Kings (NBA) and Joe Tsai (Brooklyn Nets (NBA) who is a dual Hong Kong/Canadian citizen.

The first Asian majority owner of an MBL team, Hiroshi Yamauchi, kept the Mariners from moving to Tampa in 1992 and invested in the team at the request of US Senator Slade Gorton (WA). The Japanese founder of Nintendo, who never attended a Mariner game, made the purchase as “a gesture of appreciation to the Seattle community,” wrote Gorton in a Seattle Times op-ed when Yamauchi passed away in 2013. (Nintendo of America was established in 1980 and is still remains in Redmond, WA.)

Unlike the Nintendo founder, Kim is a lifelong baseball fan who grew up playing the game and whose son played on a team from Seoul that won the Little League World Series. Kim holds citizenship in both Korea and the US. In a recent Best of Korea profile, he described feeling equally at home in the US and in Korea, where MBK Partners is based.  MBK manages more than $20 billion in assets. On other fronts, Kim is also in talks with production company Anonymous Content to develop his bestselling novel “Offerings” into a film.

The Washington Nationals is valued by Forbes at $2 billion (12th in the MLB). DC’s baseball franchise won the World Series in 2019 but has not made the playoffs since. According to the Washington Post, five or six individuals or groups are expected to meet with the team to discuss the sale. There is no current price for the Nationals and Major League Baseball must approve all potential buyers.  

The Lerner family, led by real estate developer Ted Lerner, purchased the Nationals for $405 million in 2006 after the franchise re-located from Montreal. Mark Lerner took over day-to-day team operations from his father in 2018.

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