Students, faculty and staff crammed into Van Munching Hall’s Frank Auditorium on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2011 with one goal in mind: Listening to Ted Leonsis speak about what it is like to own several Washington-based sports teams, including the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards.
Leonsis is known as one of the country's premier businessmen and an Internet pioneer, holding numerous leadership positions at AOL in his 15-year tenure, including vice chairman and president. He currently serves as AOL’s vice chairman emeritus. He is a professional sports team owner, founder and chairman of Web 2.0 start-up SnagFilms, chairman and investor in Clearspring Technologies and Revolution Money, a film producer, a private-angel investor, an active board member, and a committed philanthropist.
He is the founder, chairman and majority owner of Lincoln Holdings LLC, a sports and entertainment company that holds ownership rights in several Washington, D.C., entities, including 100 percent of the Washington Capitals and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. Lincoln Holdings also owns approximately 44 percent of Washington Sports and Entertainment Limited Partnership, which owns the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the Verizon Center and the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. Ticketmaster franchise.
Among his many honors, Leonsis has been named “Washington's Businessman of the Year”, “Washingtonian of the Year”, one of the 20 most influential people in sports, one of America's most creative executives, and a top-10 entrepreneur of the year. Leonsis blogs daily at TedsTake.com.
Asked to speak as part of the CEO @ Smith speaker series by eager Smith School sophomore Brian Oringer, Leonsis talked about the five things that make an iconic city: Its universities, its buildings, its public spaces, its media and its sports teams: “A sports team combines all of the areas of iconic elements in a city. … Owning a team is really daunting in its importance,” he said.
Leonsis also talked about the importance of being happy and how happiness contributes to being successful: “You can be successful and not be happy – just watch the news every night. … But if you are happy, you are more likely to be successful. There is a science behind happiness.”
That science, he said, comes down to five traits that you must have in order to be truly happy and successful: You must be an active participant in multiple communities of interest. You need to have very high levels of self expression. You need to have high levels of empathy. You must get out of the “I” and into the “we.” And you must always be in pursuit of a higher calling.
He went on to explain that getting involved with sports teams was a way for him to actively pursue those traits. He was involved in a very social community that allowed for great levels of self expression with enthusiastic sports fans. He put himself in situations during which he could learn to empathize with others, such as cleaning the Verizon Center bathrooms after a game. He worked on helping athletes become philanthropists. And he realized his higher calling was providing memorable experiences for fans that they could relive with the same excitement afterward, such as winning a championship game.
Jessica Bauer, Writer and Editor, Office of Marketing Communications