SBD/Issue 64/Franchises

Jim Crane Emerges As Frontrunner To Purchase MLB Rangers

Hicks Once Again Has Three Groups To Choose
From In Deciding Who Ultimately Buys Rangers
Houston businessman Jim Crane is the favorite to win the MLB Rangers when a winner in the team's auction is scheduled to be selected tomorrow, sources said. Crane had dropped out of the bidding, but last week resubmitted an offer, which will keep current Owner Tom Hicks in as a minority investor. Hicks is selling the team after defaulting on his $525M of U.S. sports debt on March 31. He is selling the Rangers to cure that default, but has also been looking for a way to stay involved with the team. MLB shot down his joint bid with former agent Dennis Gilbert, who now appears out of the running, though he is still one of three finalists, the sources said. The third bid is from Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg, who is meeting with Hicks later today, one of the sources said. Greenberg's bid is notable because Rangers President Nolan Ryan is part of it. However, the sources said Crane's bid was financially superior and would offer the best terms to the banks. The purchase price is in excess of $500M, the sources said (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan noted the winning bidder "won't automatically get the team, but will enter into exclusive negotiating rights with Hicks." Ryan said the process is "still very much in Tom's hands." Ryan: "From the organization's standpoint, we'd like to have this resolved so we can go into the new year not having it hanging over our heads" (MLB.com, 12/11).

STILL FAR FROM A DEAL? In Dallas, Evan Grant noted while the "supposed deadline for identifying a winning bidder remains" tomorrow, sources said that they do not believe "a winner will be announced then." Hicks is "trying to find a way to hold on to control of the team and the more time he buys himself, the more ability he has to scramble and find investors to back him." Also, once a bidder is "selected to then negotiate exclusively and directly" with Hicks to try and complete a deal, there is "still a huge sticking point: the real estate" around Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Grant: "In particular, I'm talking about the 12,000 parking spots in lots around the park. Those lots are becoming more and more lucrative with the opening of Cowboys Stadium." Grant noted the Rangers are "charging anywhere from $20 to $60 spots in those lots for events at" Cowboys Stadium, making it a "very profitable segment of the operation and one that any new owner is going to want to control" (DALLASNEWS.com, 12/11).

TIME FOR A RESOLUTION: In Ft. Worth, Jennifer Floyd Engel wrote by "failing to execute a sale in a timely fashion," Hicks has "hamstrung his very talented president and GM from making moves capable of really catapulting a team on the verge." Ryan: "It is frustrating. It's because we have dealt with this so long and there is still no resolution to it. ... We are kind of in a position that, until we get a resolution here and get the defined ownership group that is going to be here, can we really start doing some other things?" But Engel wrote Ryan and GM Jon Daniels have "put on a clinic in turning chicken spit into chicken salad." Daniels: "We have really taken the approach of 'It is what it is.' We talked about the ownership situation at the beginning of the meetings, and it wasn't really a topic of conversation after the opening meeting." Meanwhile, Engel wrote among the bidders Greenberg "is the smartest," as he "got Ryan on board." Engel added if the bidding was "about what is best for the Rangers, MLB would have given them the wrap-it-up finger twirl a long time ago." Engel: "It has the right. It has paid a few bills. Certainly everybody at The Ballpark has grown weary of the uncertainty, and fans deserve better going into what could be a watershed year for this franchise" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/12).

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