SBD/March 28, 2011/Franchises

Drayton McLane Reportedly Nearing Deal To Sell Astros To Jim Crane

Jim Crane had handshake agreement to buy Astros in '08, but backed out
Drayton McLane is "nearing a deal to sell the Astros to Houston businessman Jim Crane," according to sources cited by Richard Justice of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. A former baseball official, "who had hoped to put together his own group," said, "I'm hearing it's a done deal." But McLane on Friday "flatly denied a deal has been struck." He said discussions are continuing with "three or four people who are aggressively going after it." McLane: "There's not a deal. We're not farther along with Jim than with anyone else. Whoever the person ends up being has to be qualified by MLB. No price has been agreed on, and we've got to make sure they've got the money." Allen & Co. Managing Dir Steve Greenberg, hired by McLane to conduct the sale, said, "It's not true we have a deal. It's premature to say anyone is the leading candidate. Having said that, Jim Crane has all the qualifications." Greenberg added of the timetable for a deal, "I think this deal will be done in a matter of weeks, not months. We're deep into negotiations with a number of parties and hope to bring it to a head in the near future. I'd say it'll be the early part of the season as opposed to the later part of season." Justice noted McLane and Crane "had a handshake agreement for the franchise in 2008, but Crane abruptly changed his mind and broke off discussions." Crane "attempted to buy the Chicago Cubs in 2008 and the Texas Rangers last summer during their bankruptcy auction" (CHRON.com, 3/25). Greenberg said that Crane is an "outstanding potential candidate." Greenberg: "If you go back to Drayton's press conference (in November), he laid out in general how he was thinking about a transition, and he talked a lot about local ownership. Crane is a local guy, and obviously Crane's a very successful businessman with a high degree of energy and a great love of the game" (MLB.com, 3/25). Greenberg added, "Typically this process takes six to nine months to finish. So by definition we're in the seventh inning. We're well along in discussions with multiple parties. It's premature to say that we're on the verge of a deal being struck" (FOXSPORTSHOUSTON.com, 3/25).

SET UP FOR SUCCESS: The HOUSTON CHRONICLE's Justice wrote the Astros "should be one of baseball's great franchises," and "everything is in place to succeed." From '04-07, the Astros "drew an average of almost 3 million fans per season to Minute Maid Park," and if they "become competitive again, they'll fill that park back up, make it noisy and fun." The Astros "may never be able to afford" a $175M payroll, but if they are "managed smartly, they will have plenty of money to succeed." They "must have a sensible blueprint, and they absolutely must stick to it when times are tough." Part of McLane's legacy will be that he "ran the Astros during a stretch in which they went to the playoffs six times during a nine-year stretch," but "perhaps his greatest gift was in leading the campaign that got one of the great parks in all of baseball built" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/26).
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