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Judge says Rangers sale requires changes

Judge says Rangers sale requires changes

A U.S. bankruptcy judge ruled on Tuesday that the sale of the Texas Rangers from Tom Hicks to a group led by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan can be blocked by creditors unless modifications are made in the sale agreement.

The $575 million sale, agreed upon in January, has been bogged down since then. Greenberg said during Spring Training that he hoped the transfer would take place by Opening Day. Any further delay in the process could make it less straightforward for the Rangers to sign recent amateur Draft picks or make a splash to bolster the team before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

The club's day-to-day activities continue to be run by Ryan, the team president and Hall of Fame pitcher. With a 41-28 record, the Rangers lead the American League West by 3½ games over the Angels.

The current plan cannot be approved "absent acceptance by the lenders," Judge D. Michael Lynn of Fort Worth, Texas, said in a 28-page decision. The judge said the plan can be approved with changes and if it's accepted by two groups that hold the team's equity, including JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Major League Baseball released the following statement after the decision: "We are encouraged that Judge Lynn ruled that the Texas Rangers do not need to seek the maximum value for the team in the current bankruptcy case. We also remain confident that the procedure to be put in place to evaluate the plan previously submitted to the court for the sale of the team will permit the sale on a timely basis to the team's chosen bidder, the Greenberg-Ryan Group."

The plan calls for paying creditors $75 million of the proceeds obtained in the sale to remove a lien on the franchise. Creditors have objected, saying there were higher bids than Greenberg's and that the creditors were not properly included in the bidding and sale process. Tuesday's ruling stipulates that the two groups and the team each have a vote on any new sale plan.

"The treatment of the Lenders must be modified to allow them to exercise their rights under their loan documents," the judge said in his ruling.

The judge also didn't take issue with the $75 million payment, just the way the matter was handled.

After owners' meetings in New York last month, Commissioner Bud Selig said he was hoping the sale process could be sped up.

"That needs to be completed as expeditiously as possible -- underscoring, underlining expeditiously," he said. "I'm concerned about the length of time it's taken. I'm concerned for the franchise, for their fans."

On May 24, the Rangers voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an attempt to protect the team's assets and hurry along the sale to Greenberg.

Well over a year ago, Hicks withheld payment on bank loans of $525 million in an attempt to restructure his debt. He was unable to do so and instead came to an agreement to sell the team.

Hicks is the chairman and chief executive of Hicks Holdings LLC, a Dallas-based venture that handles his family's sports, real estate, corporate assets and investments.

The Rangers were born as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961 and moved to Arlington a decade later. Hicks purchased the baseball team from a group headed by future president George W. Bush in 1998 for $250 million.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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