SBD/May 16, 2011/Franchises

Astros Set To Announce Transfer Of Ownership From McLane To Jim Crane

Drayton McLane's deal with Jim Crane still pending MLB approval
The Astros plan to hold a press conference today "to announce the transfer of ownership from Drayton McLane to a group led by Jim Crane," pending approval from MLB, according to a source cited by Zachary Levine of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The sale process is "not officially over" until MLB "puts its stamp of approval on the $680 million transaction, which if done would be done later this summer." McLane yesterday said that a "deal was not yet signed." He said, "The lawyers are still looking at it. Major League Baseball is still looking at it. The Crane group is still looking at it" (CHRON.com, 5/15). McLane on Friday said of Crane: "He has a great passion, and he cares about Houston and the Houston Astros. So that’s the best of all ingredients." But in Houston, Jerome Solomon noted to "remain a baseball town, to get attendance back up to 3 million where it was in 2006, the new owners must find a way to rebuild the fans’ confidence" by winning. The current "downturn -- consecutive losing seasons for the first time since McLane’s second and third years of ownership -- didn’t come about overnight and won’t be exited quickly." Solomon: "All of those empty seats at Minute Maid Park won’t fill up because somebody else’s signature stamp likely is to be on the bottom of team checks next season. It’ll take more than that to get Astros fans excited" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/14).

FINALLY GETTING THE CALL: In Houston, David Barron noted for the last three years, Crane "has gone down swinging in an effort to buy his way into baseball -- a tentative deal in 2008 to buy the Astros that fell through and unsuccessful bids" for the Cubs in '09 and the Rangers last year. Unlike McLane, who "was a novice at the traditions and intricacies of baseball when he bought the Astros, Crane already has a mind for the game and, 40 years ago, had the skills to play it successfully" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/15). Proskauer Rose is "taking the lead representing Crane on his negotiations with McLane to purchase the Astros, the latest in a string of major sports deals" for the law firm (AMLAWDAILY.com, 5/14).

TIME TO HANG 'EM UP: McLane yesterday said, "It’s time for me to move on to something else." He said that he "has plenty to keep him busy." McLane plans to "focus this next chapter of his life on charitable works and various projects with Baylor University, Scott and White Clinic, etc." In Houston, Richard Justice writes, "But nothing he does is going to put him on stage the way baseball has. ... Through the years, McLane has garnered praise and criticism, and he has taken both in stride. As far as I know, he has returned every phone call and attended every news conference. He has been there when times have been really good and when times have been really bad" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/16). Justice wonders, "Will we remember good Drayton or bad Drayton? Years from now, we surely will appreciate that he gave us some special memories and put the Astros in a better place in terms of being able to win in the future" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 5/16).
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