More than a quarter century ago, at the age of 25, Ted Leonsis - now the owner of the Washington Capitals - was already a highly successful entrepreneur, but reflecting on his life after surviving a plane crash, he realized that he wasn't truly happy. Walking away from that plane crash, Leonsis was determined to discover the secret to happiness.
Using the same analytical skills that had brought him great business success, he began to study happiness in fellow business executives, successful entertainers, and professional athletes, as well as typical Americans. He presents his findings in his new book, The Business of Happiness.
Ted Leonsis is the founder, chairman, majority owner and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns and operates the Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Wizards (NBA), Washington Mystics (WNBA) and Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C. The partnership also operates Kettler Capitals Iceplex (the Washington Capitals’ training facility and front office headquarters) and the George Mason University Patriot Center.
The company was formed in June 2010, serves a thriving regional sports community and is the only privately held company in a top 10 market to own and operate three professional sports teams and its arena. Mr. Leonsis has owned the Washington Capitals since the spring of 1999, and in that timeframe the team has won six Southeast Division titles, a Presidents’ Trophy and has recorded more than 100 consecutive sellouts at Verizon Center.
Mr. Leonsis serves on the board of governors for the NBA and NHL as well as the executive committee of the NHL.
During his almost 14-year career at AOL, Mr. Leonsis served as president of American Online Services Company, president of AOL Studios, president of AOL Web Properties, vice chairman and president of AOL Core Services, vice chairman and president of AOL Audience Business and vice chairman emeritus. The company recorded its greatest levels of innovation and growth under his leadership, and in May 2010 AOL named a central office tower The Leonsis Creative Center in his honor. Mr. Leonsis retired from active management of AOL in 2006.
Mr. Leonsis is now a partner in the newly created “speed-up capital” Revolution Growth Fund II. In a 25-year period he has personally made investments and owned equity in numerous companies, including Groupon, Google, AOL, Revolution Money, AddThis, Preview Travel (Travelocity), GridPoint, Mahalo, MobilePosse, ObjectVideo, SB Nation, TidalTV, Zedge, Triporati, Personal, I-Village, Proxicom, ePals, SnagFilms and MediaBank. Most recently he led the Revolution Growth investments in FedBid, Resonate Networks and Echo360.
Mr. Leonsis created and produced the award-winning film Nanking. The film premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and was awarded the Documentary Editors Award. The film went on to win the Peabody Award and the Emmy Award. The film was distributed theatrically, appeared on HBO and is one of the most viewed documentaries of all time because of its wide distribution in theater and on television throughout China. Mr. Leonsis also produced the documentary film Kicking It, which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and aired on ESPN. He also produced A Fighting Chance, which aired on ESPN in 2010.
Mr. Leonsis has two films in development, When I Die, a film about young adults currently serving prison sentences of life without parole and The Liberation, a new film about reclaiming lives off the mean streets of Washington, DC.
Mr. Leonsis is the founder, chairman and largest shareholder in SnagFilms, the web’s leading online distribution channel for documentary and independent films. SnagFilms also owns and operates indieWIRE.com, the leading site for news and information about independent and documentary films. SnagFilms has more than 4,000 films in its digital library, and its iPad app is a top 10 entrant in the entertainment category.
SnagFilms is available on 167 platforms and its films are available through more than 200,000 affiliate partnerships and on more than 1 billion pages around the web.
Mr. Leonsis is an investor, a member of the board of directors and co-CEO of Groupon. He also serves on the board of directors at AddThis, where he served as chairman; American Express, where he heads the technology and innovation committee; Rosetta Stone; and Alcatel-Lucent, where he is on the technology committee. Mr. Leonsis also is on the board of directors of Georgetown University, his alma mater. He also serves on the charity boards of DC CAP (District of Columbia College Access Program) and CSF – DC (College Success Foundation – District of Columbia).
Through the Leonsis Foundation, his sports teams, SnagFilms and his family’s personal giving, more than 400 charities were served and supported during the last 12 months. Highlighted charities and causes include Best Buddies, DC Central Kitchen, See Forever Foundation, Venture Philanthropy Partners, Street Soccer USA, YouthAIDS, GlobalGiving.org, DC CAP, D.C. College Success Foundation, Potomac School, Georgetown University, Children’s Hospital, Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association, Salvation Army Angle Tree, Alliance for Lupus Research, Serve DC, Fort Dupont Ice Arena and Ice Hockey Club, USO of Metropolitan Washington, Capital Area Food Bank, Flashes of Hope, Inova Health System Foundation, UNICEF, obesity prevention and numerous local schools, cancer research and awareness programs.
Mr. Leonsis has authored numerous books, including Blue Magic: The People, Power and Politics Behind the IBM PC and The Business of Happiness: 6 Secrets to Extraordinary Success in Work and Life.
Can a brush with death change your life? For entrepreneur Ted Leonsis, it did. He recalls that despite being a multimillionaire at age 26, he was "absolutely miserable" when he came face-to-face with death during a crash-landing in 1983.
"If you want humility, be on a plane that jettisons its fuel," he says.