The motto of the 2012 Washington Nationals was “Natitude,” a reinvigorating ethos for a long-suffering baseball franchise. Young, talented and brash, the team dominated the National League during the regular season, winning a Major League-leading 98 games.
It had taken eight years for the Nationals to go from a new franchise to contenders, but they now have one of the brightest futures in baseball. Ted Lerner, the Nationals’ owner since 2006, had a similar modest start, borrowing $300 from his wife, Annette, to start a development company in 1952. Now, Lerner Enterprises’ real estate business includes 20 million square feet of property, giving him a net worth of around $4 billion, according to the 2012 Forbes 400 list.
Though Lerner, 87, who was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, has spent most of his life in the D.C. area, his philanthropic contributions extend across the globe. He donated $10 million toward a sports center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where his daughter Marla studied, and is a constant contributor to various Jewish day schools and organizations in and around the nation’s capital, as well as to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Lerner and his family are members of Ohr Kodesh Congregation, where he has helped renovate the school and lobby of the synagogue. His children have all been involved in the Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Foundation, which donates millions to local Jewish facilities.
If Lerner can help turn the Nationals into World Series champions, maybe some Natitude will rub off on the NHL’s Washington Capitals and NBA’s Washington Wizards. Members of the Lerner family are minority owners of those teams, too.