SBD/May 11, 2011/Franchises

Jim Crane Reportedly On Verge Of $680M Deal To Purchase Astros

Ownership of the Astros could be officially transferred as early as July
Astros Owner Drayton McLane's $680M deal to "sell the Astros to a group headed by Jim Crane could be completed as early as next week," according to sources cited by Levine & Justice of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. An MLB official said that ownership of the Astros "could be transferred as early as July after Major League Baseball finishes its examination of the deal and its investors." Sources said that Crane's ownership group "includes 'eight to 10 individuals,' almost all of them from the Houston area." The deal "will include the Astros' share of a regional sports network to launch in 2012." Crane also "would take on the remaining 18-plus years on the Astros' lease at Minute Maid Park, owing $1.7 million payments to the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority every six months." McLane said that the "possibility he had left open during a November news conference to retain some stake in the team's ownership was not discussed as part of the deal" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/11). McLane yesterday said that he is "still in negotiations to sell the club to Crane, but he did not say a deal was in place." McLane: "I haven't signed anything, Jim Crane and his group haven't signed anything and Major League Baseball hasn't signed anything. We're still negotiating, so there's nothing to report" (MLB.com, 5/10).

EARLY ISSUE TO ADDRESS
: In Houston, Richard Justice writes among Crane's "first difficult questions will be whether to keep Ed Wade" as the Astros GM. The Astros are an NL-worst 13-23, and Justice writes firing Wade "would be popular," but it "might also be wrong." Justice: "As bad as the Astros are now, they're in significant better shape than when Wade arrived in 2007." Wade has "overhauled the scouting staff and replaced instructors and managers up and down the minor-league food chain." He has "convinced McLane to get draft picks signed and into uniform," and he has "convinced McLane that the Astros must have a significant presence in the Dominican Republic." Justice writes Wade's "good work is just beginning to pay dividends" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/11).
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