Houston businessman Jim Crane said he was “getting impatient not only with how long it’s taking Major League Baseball to approve” him as owner of the Astros but also with “swirling media rumors about why it’s taking so long,” according to Joe Holley of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Crane indicated that “his patience with Major League Baseball has limits and that his contract with longtime Astros owner Drayton McLane has a deadline attached.” Crane: “We have a contract with Drayton. When that expires, then it expires. The contract goes through November 30.” Crane suspects that MLB is “holding up final approval to pressure him into agreeing to move the Astros” from the NL to the AL. He said that he “would consider a move, but it’s more complicated than simply saying yes.” Crane: “We signed an agreement in May, and that agreement hinges off all the economics that were presented to us.” He added, “If that changes, we’ve told baseball that if they want us to move to the American League we’d certainly consider that, but we have to understand all the ramifications of that. That includes travel, that includes paying for a designated hitter that we don’t have to pay for. That includes our TV contract.” Crane said that MLB “has satisfied its concerns about past discrimination complaints and war profiteering charges at two of his companies.” But an MLB official on Thursday said that the league “is still studying the bias allegations.” Crane said that he “remains confident the deal will go through, based on discussions he’s had with baseball officials.” Crane: “We’ve worked very hard to own a team. We think we’ve put a very good proposal in place and a very good set of owners, and we’ll do a very good job with the team, given the chance. And we want to do what’s best for baseball” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/9).
Hurricanes Owner Peter Karmanos said that he "has secured a group of a half-dozen individuals to invest more than $20 million in the team in exchange for a collective 8 percent ownership stake." Karmanos noted that the investors must gain approval from the NHL and "finish legal paperwork before he will reveal their identities." In Raleigh, Jason deBruyn reports Karmanos "promised them a 3.5 percent annualized return if they decided to get out after five years." But he said that the promise "had at most a minimal impact on investors" (TRIANGLE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/9 issue).
DODGING THE OFFER: In L.A., Bill Shaikin reports court documents filed this week reveal that an attorney for Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt dismissed a $1.2B bid for the team as a "publicity stunt." Sources indicated that McCourt "remains steadfast in his intention not to sell the Dodgers." McCourt received the offer from a group led by L.A. Marathon Founder Bill Burke and "funded in large part by financial institutions owned by the Chinese government." Burke denied the offer was a "publicity stunt" (L.A. TIMES, 9/9).
REMEMBER THE TITANS: In Nashville, G. Chambers Williams III reports the Titans, who have "fallen short of peak performance with ticket sales" heading into this season, contend that "sponsorships are doing fine." Titans VP/Marketing Ralph Ockenfels said, "As we head into the season, all of our signs are sold and we're putting the finishing touches on some new sponsorships. Our sponsors have been very loyal." LP is heading into the sixth year of its 10-year, $30M deal for naming rights to the Titans' stadium, and LP Dir of Corporate Marketing Rusty Carroll said, "It was very attractive to us in 2006, and remains attractive today. The return we get is worth much more than the $3 million-a-year cost, both in brand awareness and the relationship-building opportunities it brings" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/9).
'ROUND THE BASES: SI.com's Jon Heyman reported the Pirates "intend to extend the contract of GM Neal Huntington, whose deal expires after the year." Sources said that the "only reason it hasn't happened yet is that the team was waiting for the amateur signing period and trade deadlines to pass." Meanwhile, baseball sources expect Orioles GM Andy MacPhail "to leave that post" after this season. In addition, Heyman noted "one hint Cubs owner Tom Ricketts may ultimately hire a well-respected young GM prospect for that coveted GM job rather than an established GM star is Ricketts' effort to lock up some holdover executives" (SI.com, 9/7).