ARLINGTON -- Despite the occasional brushfire, the sale of the Rangers to a group headed by Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and club president Nolan Ryan continues to progress toward approval by Opening Day. "Everything is moving right on schedule," Greenberg said Tuesday morning. "We should be all set by late March or April 1." Greenberg and his group reached an agreement last month with Rangers owner Tom Hicks to purchase the team. The sale is subject to approval by Major League Baseball and the lending institutions that hold the debt on Hicks Sports Group.
Since the announcement, two issues have been reported. One is that not all of the lenders are happy with the final sale price, which is expected to exceed $500 million. The other issue stems from a report that came out Monday in the Sports Business Journal that stated the Rangers defaulted last year on a $39.55 million commitment in collateral for deferred compensation. Neither issue is expected to derail the progress of the sale. According to sources, the sale price is final and it's up to the lending institutions to negotiate with Hicks Sports Group how to divide up the money. But it's not going to change who buys the team. Major League Baseball has ultimate approval on the sale of a franchise, and the Commissioner's Office has given full support to the Greenberg group. MLB officials and lawyers are currently reviewing all aspects of the sale as part of the approval process, but they're still pushing hard to get the transaction done by Opening Day. The $39.55 million payment is over deferred compensation due in the future to Alex Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and other players as part of past contracts. According to the Basic Agreement, the Players Association requires that money be set aside so that those contractual obligations will still be fulfilled in the unlikely event something happens to the franchise. The Greenberg group factored that obligation into the final bid, and that problem should ultimately be addressed once the sale is finished. The sale will be final when it is approved by at least 75 percent of the other 29 Major League teams. That could be done either at one of the quarterly Owners Meetings or by conference call. When Hicks bought the team in 1998, he was approved at an Owners Meeting in Seattle. But when the group headed by Rusty Rose and former President George W. Bush bought the team in 1989, the deal was approved by conference call. Once the sale is approved, Greenberg will take over as managing general partner and Ryan will remain as club president. Hicks will remain as only a minority investor with a small stake in the club. The lead investors are Dallas businessman Ray Davis and Bob Simpson of Fort Worth, Texas, who is chairman of XTO Energy. They will be co-chairman of the board for Rangers Baseball Express. The Rangers are scheduled to open the season on April 5 against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Ballpark in Arlington.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.