MLB General

MLB’S Gaming Sale of Texas Rangers Continues

Since Texas Rangers creditors are owed approximately $576 million on first and second-lien debt, that includes interest, by Tom Hicks’ HSG Sports Group, LLC, they merely want every opportunity to be given the best chance to recoup their losses.

By Diane M. Grassi

“If an alternative process is established, we’re going to be guided by the court’s procedures, subject to of course, our ultimate right to approve any owner submitted to us.”
– MLB Commissioner, Bud Selig – July 12, 2010

As this reporter documented here in May 2010, the still impending sale of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Texas Rangers has suffered no shortage of legal and financial machinations and maneuvers, including political manipulation, for many, many months. Yet, it has been nearly a year and a half since Texas Rangers owner, Tom Hicks, defaulted on a $525 million loan in March 2009, eventually ending up in bankruptcy.

Unfortunately to date, the sale of the Rangers still awaits finalization and most importantly, the investment group to be awarded the final sale of the club has yet to be determined by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and ultimately to be approved by MLB and its respective owners.

But Mr. Selig’s above referenced recent quote indicates that despite the length of time and resources expended by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and the hundreds of millions of dollars at stake for the Rangers’ numerous creditors, Bud Selig will fight all obstacles in securing the group he sees fit to own and run the Texas Rangers; namely the Greenberg-Ryan Group. It is comprised of Pittsburgh sports attorney, Chuck Greenberg and present Texas Rangers president and minor league team owner, Nolan Ryan and their entity, Rangers Baseball Express, LLC.

It unfortunately takes far more than a good score keeper to not only understand but to keep track of all of the twists and turns in this case, Texas Rangers Baseball Partners, 1043400, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Texas, (Fort Worth), even since May 2010.

The upshot is that there will be an auction in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on August 4, 2010. However, prior to that date on July 22, 2010, the Rangers shall emerge from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection, initiated on May 24, 2010. At that hearing, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge D. Michael Lynn will hold the Ranger’s reorganization confirmation hearing.

Additionally, Judge Lynn will hear complaints on July 20, 2010, regarding new auction rules for the August 4th date. It concerns creditors’ issues primarily due to MLB’s acceptance of the lowest of the three bids previously offered for the Rangers, and its clear preference to award the club to Greenberg-Ryan.

The two previous higher bids were from former sports agent, Dennis Gilbert in collaboration with Dallas businessman, Jeff Beck and the other came from Houston businessman, Jim Crane.

Crane, whose bid was the highest, backed through lender, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., previously filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court stating that MLB deliberately blocked his negotiations with the Texas Rangers. In fact, Selig wrote an April 30, 2010 letter to J. P. Morgan Chase & Co. in response to that motion, reiterating his “best interests of baseball” motives, in his attempt to diffuse the matter; albeit unsuccessfully.

And since creditors are owed approximately $576 million on first and second-lien debt, that includes interest, by Tom Hicks’ HSG Sports Group, LLC, they want every opportunity to be given the best chance to recoup their losses.

However, an 11th hour wrinkle has also emerged, which perhaps may be the best resolution of all; according to various financial experts, legal representatives, sports industry analysts and many involved with some business facet of MLB.

And that magic bullet would be none other than Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban. Cuban made a bid for the Chicago Cubs three years ago, when it was up for sale by the Tribune Co. At that time speculation surfaced that Cuban’s brash outspokenness and aggressive management style would clash with that of MLB’s.

It seems pretty ironic now, given that a former MLB owner, one George M. Steinbrenner, who was eulogized this past week, was but praised for having some of those very same qualities, which Cuban seems to also behold.

Mark Cuban’s recent interest in the past couple of weeks in the Texas Rangers is especially intriguing in that he may have interest in placing his own bid before the August 3, 2010 deadline for acceptance of bids for the August 4th auction.

Or, Cuban may ask to become just one of the investors of a group, by supplementing the capital of one of the other investment group’s bid, since the new auction guidelines require that to qualify a bid must now clear the Greenberg-Ryan bid by $20 million.

Cuban recently stated, “With some of the court rulings, it’s changed the economics of everything…I wanted to make sure that I was at the table, just in case.…I’m hoping I’m more of a backstop than anything else.”

It would be hard to believe that Mark Cuban would want to be anyone’s backstop, no more so than would George Steinbrenner.

But one thing is more certain in this whole messy scenario as concerns the sale of the Texas Rangers and that is that there will be no lack of drama and last minute antics by all parties involved; especially given Cuban’s entry into the fray and just under the wire.

And if U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Lynn still has anything to say about it he said plenty when asked on July 12, 2010 about Bud Selig’s public remarks about his preference for the Greenberg-Ryan bid, “I don’t believe MLB can frustrate this process any longer.” Hopefully Judge Lynn is right, this time.

Once again, stay tuned…

Copyright ©2010 Diane M. Grassi
Contact: [email protected]

By Diane M. Grassi

Diane M. Grassi attempts to shine new light on issues centered on professional and amateur sports through her writing, by going beyond the headlines and sound-bites and to present sports fans with the back-story. In that effort, she seeks out those issues that rarely become headlines and elicits discussion as to why that is case.

Grassi’s goal is to not only provide content, but to offer an outlet for sports fans of all types, of various backgrounds and life experiences, to engage in topical issues with candor, good humor and provocative thought. Yet, to Grassi, it is the issues that are paramount, as opposed to the messenger, while maintaining intellectually honest and original fact-based reporting and research without an agenda.

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