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Rangers purchase approved by MLB owners

Rangers purchase approved by MLB owners

MINNEAPOLIS -- The sale of the Texas Rangers gained unanimous approval from Major League Baseball owners at their joint quarterly meeting on Thursday, ending a year of financial instability for the franchise.

The team was purchased from Tom Hicks last Wednesday for $593 million during a spirited, 17-hour bankruptcy court auction in Fort Worth, Texas.

The new Texas ownership group is called Rangers Baseball Express, with attorney Chuck Greenberg serving as managing general partner and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan remaining as club president. Ray Davis, a Dallas billionaire, and Fort Worth businessman Bob Simpson are the co-lead investors.

"I think everyone is quite happy we got this done with great dispatch," Commissioner Bud Selig said at his traditional post-meeting media conference. "I'm happy for everyone involved: certainly the franchise, the ownership group -- which went through a long process -- and their fans.

"Fans want to worry about how the club is doing on the field and not worry about whether it's going to be sold, who it's going to be sold to, and what's going to happen to it. They've really had a lot of that. It ended very happily. It was the easiest thing I had to do today."

The meeting began at 8:35 a.m. CT and Greenberg was asked to sit at a table just outside the room, which he did with John Blake, the team's executive vice president of communications. The sale was the first item on the agenda and about 15 minutes later Greenberg was invited in to rousing applause from the owners and general managers who gathered this week for the sessions. Jon Daniels, the Rangers GM, gave Greenberg the good news.

Greenberg, Simpson and Davis were all quizzed on Wednesday by the ownership committee, which approved the deal and sent it on for a further confirmation by Selig's executive council. A 75-percent vote of the owners was needed to clear the final hurdle. Simpson and Davis returned to Texas on Wednesday to attend the Rangers' 7-6 loss to the Yankees.

Greenberg profusely complimented the job Ryan and Daniels have done, not only in keeping the franchise financially afloat, but in prime position to win the American League West for the first time since 1999 and only the fourth time in club history. The Rangers lead the second-place Angels by 7 1/2 games. Both teams were off on Thursday.

"We're so pleased right now," Greenberg said. "We're looking forward to a great future. We think that great days are ahead. I can't say enough about the job Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels have done to keep the organization together through some very challenging times. Now, as an organization, we feel we're on the cusp of some great, great things. It's going to be a great ride with our fans for the many months and years ahead."

Greenberg said his immediate initiatives are to buy and install a new scoreboard in the nearly 17-year-old Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, introduce a number of fan-friendly concepts, and to continue player development with the intent of remaining successful on the field.

Daniels, 32 and finishing his fifth season as GM, said the team is well-positioned in the latter area.

"The exciting thing for me is that I've been working with Nolan for three years," Daniels said in an interview after the dual media conferences. "We share similar thoughts about how to treat people and how to go about doing things on the field. Chuck and Ray Davis share a similar vision. We've had success for one reason: our people. Our scouts killed it. Our player development staff killed it, so did our big league staff and obviously the players. We're in the position we are competitively because of them."

The sale of the team became a necessity last year when Hicks defaulted on $525 million in loans involving his sports empire from a multitude of banks, and MLB asked Hicks to divest himself of the franchise. Hicks is reportedly also trying to sell his share of the NHL's Dallas Stars and Liverpool FC, a European soccer team.

Hicks originally settled on $575 million from Greenberg and Ryan, hoping the deal would be closed by Opening Day this year. But the creditors argued that the franchise would bring in more money in an extended process.

Without agreement from the creditors, the Rangers were forced into bankruptcy in May, and last week's auction between Greenberg-Ryan and a group headed by Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and Jim Crane, a Houston investor, followed.

Greenberg said his group of 18 investors was never daunted in its pursuit of purchasing the team.

"It was a long and very difficult and frequently frustrating process," Greenberg said. "But we never wavered for a moment in our belief that it was worth every minute of it."

The Rangers joined a number of franchises that have changed hands in recent years. That list includes the Cubs, Nationals, Brewers, Rays, Braves and Pirates.

When the Cubs were purchased last year by Tom Ricketts and his family for about $900 million, the sale also came out of proceedings involving the bankruptcy of Tribune Co., owned by realtor Sam Zell. That sale was delayed for months while details of the transaction were analyzed by a court.

The Cubs and Wrigley Field were not placed under bankruptcy in that litigation, but the court had to analyze how the sale would affect the repayment of Zell's other massive debts as dictated by the court.

The Cubs were ultimately sold to the Ricketts family and approved in a similar fashion to how Greenberg and Ryan were approved on Thursday.

"It's a sense of relief for everybody in the organization that this is behind us," Ryan said during a conference call. "We can [now] focus on what we need to do, focus on what's going on out on the field and focus on possibly being in the playoffs."

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

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