SBD/August 18, 2011/Franchises

MLB Exec Council Discusses Proposed Astros Sale Without Any Resolution

Crane's proposed acquisition of Astros a hot topic at MLB meetings

The proposed and currently delayed $680M sale of the Astros to Houston businessman Jim Crane was among the major topics discussed yesterday by the MLB Exec Council as part of ongoing owners' meetings in Cooperstown, N.Y., though without any new resolution. An owner vote on the deal originally slated for today was tabled on Monday. But Allen & Co. Managing Dir and former MLB Deputy Commissioner Steve Greenberg, helping broker the sale, was present in Cooperstown and took part in the executive council meeting along with current Astros Owner Drayton McLane. Greenberg, McLane and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig all declined to comment substantively on the talks yesterday, though Selig is expected to address the matter with reporters today. Asked at one point if there was any further progress on the Astros' sale process, McLane said, "I don't know. I'm going back in (the executive council session) to find out," before deferring further comment to Selig. MLB has not outlined any concrete reasons for the delay, only saying its customary due diligence performed before any team sale is still ongoing. But among the outstanding issues, according to industry sources, is a very large group of small partners in the proposed Crane group, investors that in some cases still need to have their personal and corporate backgrounds vetted by MLB. Crane's own background, which includes a series of EEOC complaints surrounding a company his controls, also has been a topic of conversation (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE CITI? Mets Owner Fred Wilpon yesterday flatly refused to discuss Tuesday's court ruling against him and partner Saul Katz in the Bernie Madoff clawback lawsuit, an upcoming hearing tomorrow or the matter of a proposed minority equity sale to David Einhorn. "No questions, no answers," Wilpon said. Greenberg is also aiding in the Einhorn transaction (Fisher). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff cited a source as saying that Tuesday's court ruling "was 'expected,' that the real battle -- sensibly -- will come over the other $700 million that Picard wants as payment for Picard's belief that the Wilpons and Katz should have known of Madoff's crime." Another source said, "It's still a huge disappointment for them. You hope you can find a way to beat the whole thing" (, 8/17). In N.Y., Teri Thompson notes while Tuesday's ruling "upheld the method to calculate payouts" to investors used by Picard, it "is hardly certain that it affects Picard v. Katz et al, the case before U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff in which oral arguments will be heard" tomorrow. Despite various reports "characterizing the ruling as a significant setback for the Mets' owners and a big victory for Picard, the game-changing litigation for Wilpon and Katz will come in oral arguments Friday and in Rakoff's determination of whether Picard can proceed with his lawsuit and what the owners' lawyers call a flawed legal theory and a misrepresentation of factual evidence" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/18).

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