Hicks open to selling control of Rangers

Hicks open to selling control of Rangers

ARLINGTON -- Rangers owner Tom Hicks said Thursday morning he is willing to be flexible to what percentage of the ballclub he is willing to retain in any pending sale.

That includes becoming a minority partner. Hicks said he is open to giving up controlling interest in the Rangers under the right circumstances.

"I've been trying to sell a minority interest in the Rangers," Hicks said. "I've had a number of interested parties that I'm talking to. Now I'm prepared to expand that to people who are interested in a controlling interest."

Hicks has had full control over the Rangers since he bought the team in 1998. It was his decision to dismiss Doug Melvin as general manager and hire John Hart. He also hired Jon Daniels to be Hart's successor in 2005. Hicks was also the one who was willing to sign Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252 million contract in 2000 and to hire Nolan Ryan as club president last year.

To give up controlling interest would be a significant move and would require approval of the other 29 Major League Baseball owners.

"It depends on who the people are," Hicks said. "If it's a group of three or four owners who are all equal, I might feel fine. I like the idea of Nolan being more involved. I'm trying to set the stage for the Rangers' next development of the franchise."

Hicks said a sale could be completed between now and the end of the season. Last April, Forbes valued the team at $405 million. Hicks bought the team in 1998 for $250 million from an ownership group headed by Rusty Rose, Tom Schieffer and then-future President George W. Bush.

Hicks, under the umbrella of the Hicks Sports Group, owns 95 percent of the Rangers but has no desire to retain that much interest. He would rather take on investors and use the money to pay down debt.

"The reality is HSG has debt that has to be retired," Hicks said. "To do that, the Rangers are a very valuable franchise in the largest market in the nation with just one team. There are a lot of interested parties but I've decided it would be better if I broadened the process."

Hicks said Ryan could end up being a part of a new ownership group. Ryan and longtime Houston business partner Don Sanders currently own two Minor League teams in Round Rock and Corpus Christi.

"I don't know how big it would be," Hicks said. "What's important for Nolan is to be involved with the Rangers. If he has an investment in the ownership, it may mean his involvement is long-term."

The Rangers won two division titles during Hicks' first two seasons as owner in 1998 and '99 but have since endured eight losing seasons in nine years. At 27-18 they currently have the best record in the American League and a three-game lead in the AL West over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Their farm system has also been ranked as being among the best in baseball.

Hicks also owns the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League and a 50-percent stake in the Liverpool F.C. soccer team. Hicks made it clear he wants to continue being involved with the Rangers even if he does sell a majority stake and controlling interest in the club.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.