Theodore N. “Ted” Lerner, a Chevy Chase billionaire developer and owner of the Washington Nationals baseball franchise, has died at 97. The cause of death was pneumonia, according to a Nationals spokesperson.
Lerner was known as a development mogul in the Washington, D.C., metro region and had a significant impact on Montgomery County’s retail and physical landscape as the developer of the now-demolished White Flint Mall in North Bethesda and the since-renamed Wheaton Plaza.
He was the owner of the White Flint property and opened the mall in 1977. The complex was considered one of the biggest and most popular shopping destinations in the D.C. area, and was the first mall to issue its own credit card to frequent shoppers. The mall released its own Monopoly-inspired game called “White Flint-opoly,” which collectors have bought and sold on eBay.
The mall closed in 2015 and was demolished shortly after. Lerner Enterprises still owns the property and has been the subject of multiple lawsuits involving its use and ownership.
In 2018, federal judges upheld a 2015 jury verdict that awarded $31 million to Lord & Taylor to compensate the store for lost profits and future construction costs necessitated by the mall owners’ decision to demolish the shopping complex. The jury found that Lerner Enterprises and The Tower Cos. had breached a 1975 agreement that committed them to maintaining the Rockville Pike property as a “first-class” mall until at least 2042.
That same year, descendants of the late Henry Reich filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court alleging majority owners Tower Cos. and Lerner were trying to squeeze them out of their minority ownership in the mall property. That litigation was paused.
The site was on the shortlist for the development of Amazon’s D.C. area headquarters in 2018, but it was passed up for a site in Arlington. It is unclear what will be done with the property or when it will be redeveloped.
In September 2022, Montgomery County and Lerner Enterprises reached a tentative deal to reopen a path on the White Flint property that connects a shopping center on Nicholson Lane to Garrett Park and areas farther south.
Lerner also developed Wheaton Plaza, now known as Westfield Wheaton, a 1.7-million-square foot, two-story shopping mall near the Wheaton Metro station.
Montgomery County Council President Evan Glass shared his condolences on Twitter Monday afternoon:
Outside of the county, Lerner is credited with the creation of Tysons Corner and the opening of Tysons Corner Center as well as Dulles Town Center and developments around Nationals Park.
In addition, Lerner Enterprises built over 22,000 houses and 7,000 apartments in the D.C. area.
Lerner purchased the Washington Nationals from Major League Baseball for $450 million in 2006, a year after the franchise moved from Montreal to Washington.
The Washington Post highlighted Lerner’s achievements in both real estate and sports in an obituary published Monday morning, calling the Nationals’ 2019 World Series victory “the capstone to his career.”
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