SBD/November 18, 2011/Franchises

MLB Approves Sale Of Astros To Crane At Reduced Price Of $610M

Crane bought the Astros for $610M, reduced from original $680M figure
MLB owners on Thursday in Milwaukee unanimously approved the $610M, long-delayed sale of the Astros from Drayton McLane to Houston businessman Jim Crane. The sale, set to close formally early next week, represents a reduction from an original $680M figure. Crane negotiated the reduction, arguing the likelihood of higher operating costs given heightened travel within the AL West, the need to pay for a DH, and larger overall salaries in the AL. Responsibility to fund the $70M decrease will be split between McLane and MLB. Still, McLane netted more than five-and-a-half times the $117M he paid for the Astros in '92. "It feels very good," said Crane, who succeeded on his fourth attempt to purchase an MLB team and successfully shook off numerous questions regarding his business background. "I've been trying for a long time. I'm from Missouri. I'm stubborn. Now we've got it done. I want to thank Drayton for all he has done. He's a big part of getting us over the finish line" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).’s Barry Bloom noted the deal “includes $385 million in equity, of which Crane is contributing about 20 percent.” The remainder “came from $25 million commitments from investors and through bank loans.” There will be “an 11-person board of directors” (, 11/17). Crane said his group has “approximately 48” investors. Crane: “The names that will come out are very prominent business people. We have a lot of very smart people in the group and a very solid board. I think they’re engaged in ownership in Houston. The support will be in Houston. We’ll have a lot more involvement from the corporation side, which is what is needed to be successful” (, 11/17).

CHANGES ON THE HORIZON: In Houston, Zachary Levine noted with the ownership “officially transitioning Tuesday, Jim Crane spoke of the need to evaluate everything from the management behind the sputtering baseball team to those whose jobs it is to get fans into seats.” Crane: “Starting Tuesday when we get in the office, we’re going to review everything, not only the baseball operation but the marketing operation. Everything from soup to nuts. We’ll sit down with all the executives ... ask them what they think we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong. We’ll make some very quick adjustments” (, 11/17). Crane “strongly hinted Thursday” that he “will lower ticket prices for 2012.” Crane: “We want to do whatever we can [to] get the people back. In loading a truck, if you’ve got a little empty space, $2 is better than nothing.” He added, “We want to reach out to the fans. We’ll do some things for the fans immediately when we get running. We understand the tradition in baseball. We understand the NL, and people are tied to that. But that wasn’t an option for this town” (, 11/17). Crane said that he “would be honest with fans about the work that needs to be done.” He “promised to listen on things like uniforms, colors, logos and even prices, but he emphasized some things could not be compromised.” In Houston, Richard Justice wrote for “his first day on the job, Crane hit all the right buttons.” Crane acknowledged that fans “were upset about the move to the American League but said he had no say in the matter.” Justice: “Crane is off to a good start. His first hire, chief executive officer George Postolos, is a brilliant man and an experienced executive.” His challenge “will be to bring more smart people into the front office and to evaluate the people he already has” (, 11/17).

NO COMPLAINTS HERE: In Ft. Worth, Jeff Wilson wrote the Rangers “aren't complaining” about the Astros' move to the AL West. They believe “the advantages of having a second Texas team in a West Coast-heavy division far outweigh the disadvantages, especially a team that is coming off a 106-loss season.” A second Texas team in the AL West “should boost the Rangers' TV ratings with fewer road games starting" at 9:00pm ET. More Astros games at Rangers Ballpark “could lead to a bump in attendance.” The Rangers “already considered the annual three-game interleague series a premium ticket.” Rangers Assistant GM Thad Levine said, "It's a win for us all the way around. If that cuts down on one trip to the West Coast and allows us to stay in-state to play a handful of games, that is a huge benefit" (, 11/17). SI's Tom Verducci said after 50 years in the NL, the Astros never "developed a true natural rival." Verducci: "They have the possibility of that with the Texas Rangers. All it takes now is some history going forward, but all things in Texas there’s a rivalry within the state, I think it could be a good one” (“Hot Stove,” MLB Network, 11/17).
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