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Jim Crane Unanimously Approved as New Owner of the Houston Astros PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 17 November 2011 09:13

Jim Crane

THIS IS BREAKING NEWS....

Persistence has paid off for Jim Crane. After backing out at the 11th hour in 2008 for the purchase of the Astros, being in the bidding for the Cubs in 2009 and losing out at auction to a group that included Nolan Ryan for Rangers in 2010, he’s gone “back to the future” with unanimous approval from MLB’s owners for the $680 million sale for the Astros from Drayton McLane.

As part of the sale, Crane has agreed to move the Astros to the American League in 2013 as part of the league and MLBPA’s want for a balance of 15 teams each between the AL and NL and each of Major League Baseball’s six divisions will be comprised of five Clubs for the first time. With 15 teams in each league, MLB will see some form of interleague play daily for the first time.

Commissioner Selig said of the sale to Crane, “I welcome Jim Crane and his group as they prepare to become the new stewards of the Astros.  I thank them for their patience and determination throughout a long but necessary process, which allowed us to accomplish our due diligence. The enthusiasm of Jim and his group will serve the Astros and their fans very well in the years ahead.

“I congratulate Drayton McLane on his 19 years of leadership of the Houston Astros, a franchise in which he has rightfully taken great pride.  Drayton’s ownership produced six Postseason berths, the Club’s first National League pennant, a ballpark that is among the finest in the sport, and many contributions that have impacted the communities of Houston and throughout his home state of Texas.  On behalf of Major League Baseball, I thank Drayton for his service to our game and I wish him and his family all the best.”

As it impacts the value of a new regional sports network being launched by the Astros, Houston Rockets, and Comcast, Crane and his large investor group reached a $70 million compensation package with $35 million coming from MLB and Drayton McLane agreeing to reduce the overall sale price by $35 million. That means that technically, the Astros sale will total $610 million, still the second-highest sale price for an MLB club behind only the Chicago Cubs.

The other principal investors in Crane's group include John Havens, Bill Morgan, Doug Bauer, John Hauck & TSI Holding Company, Greg Allen & family, Neil Kelley & Partners, Will Galtney, John Eddie Williams & Cary Patterson and Milton Carroll & Partners.

The vote to approve Crane was delayed in August of this year over several factors. The contentious bankruptcy of the Dodgers and the divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt had the owners looking for more information about Crane and his investor group. Also, there were concerns after Crane backed out of the 2008 sale of the Astros with McLane. The now former owner of the Astros was said to be very upset and made it known to the other 29 owners during Crane’s attempts to purchase the Cubs and Rangers.

Over recent months, through at least one face-to-face meeting between Crane and Selig, that level of concern by owners and the commissioner appears to have subsided and negotiations for balancing out the leagues came into focus.

The Astros have called at 3:30pm CT press conference at Minute Maid Park where Crane will address the media.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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MLB Labor Agreement Could Come Any Day PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Sunday, 13 November 2011 13:11

MLBWorking over the weekend, representatives from MLB and the MLBPA appear to have bridged the most difficult aspect of their labor negotiations – a system to allow for draft-related issues.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, a deal could come as early as today or Monday.

While the current labor agreement is set to expire on Dec 11, there is pressure to reach a deal in advance of several meetings set for this coming week. General Managers are set to meet on Monday and Tuesday with the owners meeting on Weds and Thurs in Milwaukee. The union is holding meetings with player agents from Mon-Weds.

According to Rosenthal, there are other issues that could trip-up an announcement within the next two days. Issues such as draft-pick compensation, the Luxury Tax, a possible international draft, changes to revenue-sharing, hGH testing, and more are said to be part of discussions around the new collective bargaining agreement.

The agreement is believed to be five-years in length. By the time this new agreement expires, MLB will have seen 22 years of labor peace.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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New Miami Marlins Logos Unveiled, Here's the Design PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 11 November 2011 21:44

Marlins

Below are the first looks at the new Miami Marlins logos that were unveiled tonight. Roads will be gray, home is black, the day-glo orange are alternative road. See owner Jeffery Lora with Ozzie Guillen and players sporting the new look at the very bottom.

Marlins

Road

Alternate

Club Colors

Marlins Lettering

Loria, Ozzie, players


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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Vote to Approve Jim Crane as New Owner of the Astros Set for Thurs PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 11 November 2011 18:32

Jim CraneJim Crane, the Houston businessman that has made several attempts at owning an MLB franchise in the past, now seems destined to do so. The vote to approve Crane as the new owner of the Houston Astros is on the agenda for the MLB owners’ meetings set next week in Milwaukee. The vote will likely come on Thursday, according to a source close to the negotiations but not allowed to speak publicly.

As part of the sale, the Astros will move to the American League as early as the 2013 season. Both MLB and the MLBPA wish to see the league balanced out at 15 teams a piece. In doing so, interleague will be played daily, and the league will see expanded playoffs with the additional Wild Card teams.

Crane was close to owning the Astros once prior in 2008, but backed out at the 11th hour. He also was a bidder for the Chicago Cubs in 2009, and was married up with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in a public auction of the Texas Rangers that saw the group headed by Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg win out in late 2010.

The vote to approve Crane was originally set for the August owners meetings in Cooperstown but was pulled off the agenda the Monday before they began over several factors surrounding activity at Crane’s global logistics companies, one of which being a class-action discrimination lawsuit and the other being fines levied by the Justice Dept over war-profiteering.

When coupled with the turmoil around the bankruptcy of the Dodgers and the associated issues surrounding Frank McCourt, owners were said to not have reached a comfort level in approving Crane in August. Since then, he has met with Commissioner Selig and league executives to reach an agreement.

The sales agreement between current owner Drayton McLane to Crane reached in May is valued at $680 million, the second highest in the history of MLB behind only the sale of the Cubs. However, when MLB began pushing to move the Astros to the AL, Crane said that he was seeking as much as $50 million in compensation for the league move due to impacts to the newly formed regional sports network the Astros have with the NBA Houston Rockets and Comcast. Whether the sale price has been adjusted due to negotiations has not yet been reported, and sources would not divulge whether that has been the case.

The date of the vote has significance in allowing the deal to go through. Crane’s exclusivity agreement with McLane expires on Nov. 30, and McLane has said that there are no other bidders on the horizon that match the $680 million offering price. With a new CBA set to be reached any day now, and the Baseball Winter Meetings beginning the first week in December, keeping the Astros in limbo has been seen as detrimental to allowing off-season player moves to occur without the sale issue resolved.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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Will Jim Crane Own the Astros a Week from Today? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 10 November 2011 13:17

Jim CraneIn what may be a now or never moment for prospective Astros owner Jim Crane, exactly one week from today the potential vote to approve the $680 million sale of the club from Drayton McLane could take place. The vote was delayed in August to allow time for owners to gain a larger comfort level with Crane on several issues, some surrounding aspects around his business in the wake of the league’s dealings with the bankruptcy case surrounding Frank McCourt and the Dodgers.

But, in recent weeks, a key aspect has been negotiating compensation for moving the Astros to the American League. Crane is seeking as much as $50 million off the sale price saying that later start times for AL West games, impacts to a new regional sports network, and likely changes in how the major league roster is comprised based in competition from the Rangers and Angels factor in. The realignment is being sought by the league to allow for additional Wild Card teams to be added for the 2013 season.

Drayton McLane has been making the case to the owners that there are no other bidders that can come close to the $680 million sale price. That figure would be the second-highest for an MLB club behind only the Cubs sale, which included Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago for $835 million.

It seems highly unlikely that Commissioner Selig will call a vote if he has any trepidation about it passing the muster by at least the required 75 percent of the owners. The last time a vote was held by the owners where it prospective owner was rejected was with Miles Prentice and his attempt at purchasing the Kansas City Royals.

While the character issues may still linger, the negotiations around compensation for moving to the AL West appears to be the key point, now.

Will Crane be approved on the 17th? That seems to still be up for debate. By all accounts negotiations are still taking place. If history is any indicator, MLB sent out a press release the Monday before the Owners Meetings in August to inform that the delay to approve Crane was taking place. It seems doubtful that MLB would outright say Crane is wholly rejected. Once again, if there are concerns – what ever those are – with Crane, it will be framed as a “delay”.

The exclusive agreement between Drayton McLane and Crane for the purchase expires on Nov. 30, less than 2 weeks after the scheduled date for a possible approval would take place. By December it seems clear that one way or another, we’ll know if the 2013 season for the Astros will be piloted by Crane or McLane.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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Early Ticket Prices for 2012 Season Released by Red Sox, Rays PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 09 November 2011 11:52
Red Sox

Fehgetaboutit! The 2011 MLB season is over, and with it those that weren’t fortunate enough to make the World Series have already begun reaching out to fans in the off-season to get them into seats when the 2012 season kicks off in April.

Two key AL East clubs have gotten an early jump on releasing ticket prices.

When you think about it, it makes sense that the Red Sox and Rays are those two clubs . The Red Sox, who saw an epic collapse (it’s ironic that the Rays were the ultimate beneficiary of the Sept. swoon by Boston), the loss of not only Terry Francona but Theo Epstein as well after the whole “chicken and beer” debacle went down, need to somehow say to fans, “That was then. 2012 will be different.”

For the Rays, their needs are more long term. Challenged on several major fronts, the team that has made the playoffs 3 out of the last 4 seasons could only muster ranking second to last in attendance last season.

Here’s how they shake out.

Red Sox Hold the Line (again) On Ticket Prices

The Boston Red Sox have said that prices for all ticket categories for the 2012 regular season at Fenway Park will be held at 2011 levels. This marks the second time in four years the team has held ticket prices as the Red Sox also froze prices across the board for the 2009 season.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. While clubs price the houses differently, touting pricing decreases, while other areas of the ballpark seeing an increase, given the turmoil in Beantown, if they weren’t going to cut prices, nothing less than the status quo would have been acceptable.

That wasn’t lost on ownership of the Red Sox.

"John Henry, Tom Werner, and the members of our Front Office spend considerable time each year discussing ticket pricing and policies for the following season, and as a group we make a concerted effort to look at our business through the prism of Red Sox fans. Over the last several years, many in Red Sox Nation have experienced economic difficulties, and every fan has gone through some trying times - particularly at the end of the 2011 season - as the team fell short of our goal of reaching the post-season," said President/CEO Larry Lucchino. "The decision to hold ticket prices next season is just one of many ways we hope to show our gratitude to Red Sox Nation in 2012 for the unfailing support they have shown at the ballpark, and for their faith in the Red Sox. It is also part of an effort we've made over the last few years to slow the growth of season ticket and individual game tickets to ensure the Fenway Park experience is a viable option for as many citizens of Red Sox Nation as possible. We are constantly impressed by our fans' love of the game and our franchise, and we hope to see them fill up Fenway Park next year as we celebrate the ballpark's special 100th anniversary season."

The first opportunity for Red Sox fans to purchase tickets for the 2012 season will be the annual, all-day "Christmas at Fenway" presented by Stop & Shop on Saturday, December 10th.

Tampa Bay Rays See Most Tickets Same, But 10% Will See Increase

After making the Rays made playoffs in dramatic fashion on the last day of the season, for the third time in four seasons the Rays announced that prices for 90 percent of their tickets will remain the same or decrease for the 2012 season. The club is continuing their 4-teir system of pricing. According to the Rays:

For 2012, there will again be four categories of single-game ticket pricing: Diamond, Platinum, Gold and Silver. All ticket prices for each game are subject to change at the Rays discretion. Diamond games are all Friday, Saturday and Sunday games versus the Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves and Yankees (including Opening Day). Platinum games include Monday through Thursday games versus the Yankees and Red Sox.

Those increases will show up as $1 to $2 for select seats in the lower box and some outfield seats.

"Our on-field accomplishments over the past four seasons have provided some memorable moments for our fans. Just as important to us is that our ticket prices have remained among the most affordable in all of professional sports," said Rays President Matt Silverman. "Our ticket options for 2012 will again be aimed at making the ballpark experience affordable for families."

Upper Deck seats will cost as little as $9 for 28 of the Rays home games in 2012. The Rays tout that overall, more than one million tickets will be priced at $25 or less.

In addition, the Rays will make an adjustment to weekday game times at Tropicana Field next season. All Monday through Friday games will start at 7:10 p.m., with the exception of 12 weekday day games including three dates against the New York Yankees: Opening Day, April 6 at 3:10 p.m.; Independence Day, July 4 at 3:10 p.m.; and Labor Day, September 3 at 1:10 p.m. Saturday game times will be announced at a later date and Sundays will remain at 1:40 p.m.

Gold games include the remaining Friday, Saturday and Sunday games, as well as a featured series versus the New York Mets (Tuesday, June 12 - Thursday, June 14). Silver games include the remaining weekday games in which both Upper Box and Upper Reserved seats will be $9.

One thing you have to tip the hat to the Rays to: They will continue to the policy of allowing fans to bring food and select beverages into the ballpark and free parking for carpoolers.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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It’s Over: Frank McCourt Agrees to Sell the Los Angeles Dodgers PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 07:32

Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the
Los Angeles Dodgers

UPDATE: Additional details on how McCourt might still control certain Dodger assets after the sale

It seemed unfathomable just a few weeks ago, but in news that will reverberate through Major League Baseball and Los Angeles, Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the Dodgers, Dodgers Stadium, and surrounding parking lots. The news was first reported by the LA Times.

Both sides in the contentious legal battle need approval from a Delaware bankruptcy court where Judge Kevin Gross is preceding over the case.

But according to sources, it is possible that not all Dodger assets could be sold by McCourt. Logistically, the court controls the auction process. The key pieces – the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium, and parking lots – would be in the deal, but other land holdings and a splintered-off company created for premium tickets could be up for negotiation.

For the sale, and MLB, new owners will wish to control all revenue streams associated to the Dodgers. It will be a balancing act between how much money comes out of the auction. Creditors will need to be the first satisfied, with left over proceeds going to McCourt.

The sale would be in the form of an auction. The most recent Forbes valuation (see historical Forbes valuation numbers) which was published in 2011 but accounted for the 2010 season, shows the Dodgers to be worth $800 million.

But, that does not account for what is surely to be a lucrative television rights extension that will be granted to new ownership that will likely be worth several billion dollars. As opposed to the rejected request for an extension prior by McCourt, where Commissioner Selig said he would simply be using an extension with FOX to pay his divorce settlement of $130 million and other legal costs associated to it, Selig will grant an extension for new ownership as the revenues from the deal will go back to improving the Dodgers farm system, the stadium, and major league player payroll.

If estimates are correct, the Dodgers and, the associated assets in the stadium and land, will fetch far in excess of the $800 million valuation number by Forbes. A sale price of anywhere from $1.2=$1.5 billion is within reach through the auction process.

McCourt purchased the Dodgers for $421 million in 2004 from News Corp. It has been reported that even if the sale were in excess of $1 billion, with debt, his divorce settlement and other legal details, McCourt could profit marginally or just break even.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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Complete List of 148 MLB Players Eligible for Free Agency PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Sunday, 30 October 2011 21:41

MLBToday, the below 148 players became free agents pursuant to Article XX B (2) of the Basic Agreement (see the list by selecting Read More). The league and MLBPA delayed the start of free agency by 24 hours due to the collective bargaining process, something the league and PA would not address in detail.

This year is different than in years past. Instead of players having to file for free agency, they become automatically available.

Who has the most eligible free agents? The Dodgers have the distinction with 10 players (Jonathan Broxton is but one player). Several teams have eight, with the Brewers (most notably, Prince Fielder), Red Sox (notables include Papelbon, Ortiz, JD Drew and Wakefield), Yankees (notables include Jorge Posada, Colon), and Nationals (notables include Ivan Rodriguez, Livan Hernandez).

Of course, the biggest free agent eligible player out there is Albert Pujols, someone most everybody is watching to see if he can land the most lucrative contract in history with the Cardinals, or elsewhere. Other notable players to watch for are Roy Oswalt, Jimmy Rollins, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, Magglio Ordonez, Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, CJ Wilson.

But, the list could grow further, if options are exercised (see bottom table). There, the likes of CC Sabathia, Rafeal Soriano, Rafeal Furcal, Yadier Molina, Kelly Shoppach, and Jon Rauch lurk.

Free agent players are eligible to negotiate and sign with any Club beginning 12:01 AM EST Thursday, November 3.

SELECT READ MORE TO SEE THE 148 ELIGIBLE PLUS PLAYERS ELIGIBLE FOR FREE AGENCY PENDING OPTION PROVISIONS IN THEIR UNIFORM PLAYER CONTRACT (UPC)

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Ticket Prices Skyrocket for Game 7 of World Series PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 28 October 2011 16:00

World Series

Don’t have a ticket for tonight’s Game 7 of the World Series and are looking to attend? Better bring a thick pocket book stuffed with green.

According to ticket researcher and outlet TiqIQ, the cost to just get into tonight’s game on the resale market at 3pm ET is $518. The average cost – repeat average – is $958 with approximately 950 tickets available.

It’s not inconceivable that by first pitch the cost just to get in the door will be $550.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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