WASHINGTON -- As if having guns in the locker room wasn't enough of a headache, it turns out sale of the Washington Wizards might not be going as smoothly as thought.
A person close to presumptive buyer Ted Leonsis told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Leonsis' group is "surprised and disappointed" about an internal e-mail among Wizards staff. The e-mail seeks to downplay the perception the Leonsis group will be the inevitable new owner and says "there is no exclusive right for anyone to purchase the Wizards."
Longtime Wizards owner Abe Pollin died in November. Leonsis, whose Lincoln Holdings group owns 44 percent of the Wizards and the rest of Pollin's Washington Sports & Entertainment empire, has the inside track to purchase the other 56 percent and would have to fail to clear all of several hurdles not to do so.
The e-mail, written by WS&E president of business operations Peter Biche and first obtained by The Washington Post, says there's nothing to keep the Pollin family from marketing the Wizards to other potential buyers "at this time."
The person close to Leonsis, however, noted that the two parties are currently involved in an exclusive appraisal process. The Leonsis group has chosen an appraiser to value the team, and Pollin's family is in the process of doing the same. If the two appraisals fail to yield a mutually agreeable sale price, then a neutral appraiser will be chosen -- and the Pollins have to sale if Leonsis' group offers that amount.
"They are forced to sell if we want to buy," said the person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the negotiating process is ongoing.
Pollin welcomed Leonsis into the WS&E family in 1999, selling him the NHL's Washington Capitals, and anointed the former AOL executive his successor. While Biche's e-mail raises the possibility of another owner, it does say that Leonsis' group "does continue to have the right of first refusal to match any offer the Pollins or Washington Sports receive."
A call to a spokesman for Washington Sports was not immediately returned.