Rangers purchase down to two groups

Rangers purchase down to two groups

ARLINGTON -- Ownership of the Rangers is likely coming down to either the group headed by former agent Dennis Gilbert or the one led by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg, according to industry sources.

Houston businessman Jim Crane has dropped out of the process and it's unlikely that current owner Tom Hicks will put together his own group that will retain control of the club. Hicks could end up being a partner in Gilbert's group, although that's still being negotiated.

A final decision is expected by Dec. 15 and a source says it's "50-50" as to who gains control of the team. But it's doubtful that a resolution will come in time to have an impact on how the Rangers approach the offseason.

How it plays out could determine club president Nolan Ryan's future with the club. Ryan would be a part of Greenberg's group if it gains control but would unlikely be a part of Gilbert's ownership group. Ryan's future with the club could become uncertain if Gilbert buys the Rangers.

Greenberg has put together an ownership group that includes a significant number of local investors. Ryan and Greenberg developed a strong relationship during the process, and Ryan would be expected to continue to play a prominent role in the organization.

Greenberg, Gilbert and Crane all submitted proposals before Thanksgiving and Hicks is in the process of reviewing those proposals. But Major League Baseball has made it clear that Crane would not gain approval after dropping out of a past handshake agreement to buy the Astros.

Hicks explored the possibility of putting together his own group to retain control of the team, but sources said he is becoming more comfortable with the idea of working with Gilbert, who has a deep background in baseball and is currently a special assistant to White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

Gilbert, a former Minor League player, began as an insurance agent in Beverly Hills, Calif., before becoming an agent in the early years of baseball free agency. His list of clients included Jose Canseco, Bobby Bonilla, Barry Bonds, Joe Magrane, Danny Tartabull, Mike Piazza, Brady Anderson, Curt Schilling, Rickey Henderson, Kevin Appier, Scott Erickson, Rod Beck and Trevor Hoffman.

Gilbert stepped away from being an agent in 1996, although the business continues as the Beverly Hills Sports Council, a group that represents Rangers shortstop Michael Young. Gilbert joined the White Sox in 2000 as an advisor to Reinsdorf while still maintaining his insurance business.

If Gilbert does acquire the Rangers, he is expected to take an active role in the club's day-to-day operations, although he has made it clear that general manager Job Daniels would retain his position.

Greenberg also has a sports background. He currently owns two Minor League baseball teams in State College, Pa., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., and recently sold a third team in Altoona, Pa. His Minor League teams have won several national awards for their promotional and marketing efforts.

Greenberg also represented buyers involved in the purchase of two National Hockey League teams: the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1999 and the Florida Panthers in 2001.

Any new ownership group must be approved by the other 29 Major League Baseball clubs and no doubt would have to meet the approval of Commissioner Bud Selig.

But because the Rangers are being sold to satisfy a substantial debt incurred by Hicks Sports Group, any transfer of ownership must also be approved by the NHL and the banks that hold the HSG debt. The NHL is involved because HSG also owns the Dallas Stars.

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