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WASHINGTON, DC-Major League Baseball has officially transferred ownership of the Washington Nationals to a group headed by Washington developer Theodore N. Lerner. The move had been delayed last week due to a possible default on a construction administration contract by the city for the planned $611-million Washington Nationals stadium.

According to a spokesperson in the DC Sports & Entertainment Commission, the letter MLB sent to the city, which was printed in a national newspaper, was much ado about nothing and the city’s lease had never been in jeopardy. “They just wanted more clarification from us on certain issues; unfortunately it was characterized as a default,” he tells GlobeSt.com. Some of the issues had to do with claims pending against the city’s use of eminent domain and because these claims haven’t been resolved yet, he says, “we couldn’t deliver all of the paperwork.”

Another source in the District of Columbia’s mayor’s office also confirms that the paperwork has been processed and the city is in no danger of default.

Reading between the lines, city representatives view the letter as having been written with an eye toward the unlikely but increasingly distinct possibility that a dispute over the stadium’s construction ends up in court. “It was a salvo…if something happens they are on record of warning us,” the spokesperson says.

Although it has only been three months since MLB announced the Lerners would pay $450 million for the team, the relationship between the group and the city has deteriorated over a number of issues. In particular, the Lerners are not favorably disposed to the nearby mixed-use development plan, which includes parking for the stadium, that has been endorsed by the DC Council and the Mayor because it might cause the opening to be delayed. This won’t happen though, the DC Sports & Entertainment Commission spokesperson adds: “We are on schedule and on budget for an April 2008 opening.”

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