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BET's Johnson Bats for Expos, Sports Net

Black Entertainment Television CEO Robert Johnson is looking to purchase Major League Baseball's Montreal Expos — a deal that could also include the launch of a new regional sports network in the Washington, D.C., market.

Johnson would team with Daniel Snyder, owner of the National Football League's Washington Redskins, to purchase 51 percent of the Expos and relocate the franchise — currently owned by MLB — to the Washington area, he said.

Along with the development of a new stadium, the deal would also include the creation of a regional sports network to rival Baltimore-based Comcast Sports Net.

Johnson would not specify how much he would pay for the team. But industry sources estimated that it would cost at least $400 million to purchase and run the franchise, partially fund a new stadium and settle any discrepancies over potential market losses to the Baltimore Orioles, which draws baseball fans from the D.C. area.

Johnson, who in the past has pursued ownership interests in the National Basketball Association's Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets (now the New Orleans Hornets), said the deal would help baseball rid itself of a money-losing franchise.

"Under their [new] contract, they can't eliminate the team. The team is owned by [the owners], so all the team owners are underwriting about $30 million worth of loss," Johnson said. "I was proposing a solution that would allow [baseball] to cut their losses by selling [51 percent] at the Montreal valuation and recouping part of that at the team's Washington D.C. valuation when they sold the remaining 49 percent."

Representatives from Major League Baseball would not comment on Johnson's proposal.

Johnson also said he's interested in owning a proposed NBA franchise in Charlotte, N.C. The league's board of governors last week tentatively agreed to create a Charlotte franchise for the 2004-2005 season.

Last March, Johnson's bid to purchase the then-Charlotte Hornets was thwarted by team owners George Shinn and Ray Wooldridge, who subsequently moved the team to New Orleans.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.