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AP source: Milestone reached in Wizards sale talks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The two sides negotiating the sale of the Washington Wizards have agreed to value the franchise and the Verizon Center at slightly more than $550 million, a significant benchmark in the expected transfer of ownership to Ted Leonsis following the death of longtime owner Abe Pollin.

A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the figure to The Associated Press on Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because many facets of the purchase have yet to be completed, with a final deal not expected for weeks.

Still, an agreement on a value of the franchise represents substantial progress in talks that got off to a rough start. The person says Leonsis' group and Pollin's estate were "several hundred million dollars" apart when negotiations began in early January.

The two sides also initially disputed the process for selling the team, with Leonsis going public on his blog to state his case in late January.

Pollin died in November, setting in motion what was expected to be a smooth transfer of the Wizards and the Verizon Center to Leonsis. Pollin anointed Leonsis as his heir when the two became partners in 1999, and Leonsis' group owns 44 percent of the team and the arena and has exclusive rights to negotiate a purchase of the other 56 percent.

Leonsis' actual purchase price has yet to be determined, in part because a few financial issues have yet to be resolved, according to the person who spoke to the AP. There are also many nonfinancial matters to be negotiated.

The person said a final deal should be in place in "weeks, not months." The deal would then be subject to approval by NBA owners.

Representatives for Leonsis' group had no comment. Representatives for the Pollin estate did not return messages seeking comment.