UPDATE (9:45pm ET). Hicks Sports Group released the fiollowing statement:
Hicks Sports Group LLC announced today that it has reached a definitive agreement to sell the Texas Rangers franchise to Rangers Baseball Express LLC, an investment group headed by Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan, the legendary pitcher who now serves as president of Texas Rangers Baseball Partners. The agreement represents completion of the second major step to sell the team. It is still subject to approval by Major League Baseball and certain lending institutions, as well as completion of financing.
“Together, we have worked exhaustively since last month to attain this agreement,” said Tom Hicks whose family controls Hicks Sports Group. “It’s a complex business deal that positions the franchise positively for the future.”
In a separate transaction, Ballpark Real Estate, L.P., an independent investment vehicle controlled by Hicks, entered into an agreement to sell or transfer to the Greenberg-Ryan group approximately 153 of the 195 acres around the Ballpark and Cowboys Stadium that is owned or controlled by Ballpark Real Estate or the Hicks family. In return for the transferred land, Ballpark Real Estate will receive cash, notes, and an ownership position in the team.
Greenberg will serve as the Managing Partner and CEO of Rangers Baseball Express while Ryan will continue in his role as President. Co-lead investments in Rangers Baseball Express will be made by Ray Davis of Dallas and the family of Bob and Janice Simpson of Ft. Worth. Ray Davis and Bob Simpson will serve as Co-Chairmen of the Board of Rangers Baseball Express. Greenberg has asked Hicks to continue his association with the Club as Chairman Emeritus.
“Nolan and I greatly appreciate Tom Hicks’ willingness to work beyond the deadline to complete the deal and his support for passing the torch from the Hicks family to our group,” said Greenberg. “His actions speak eloquently to his commitment to serve the best interests of Rangers fans and the community.” "We are fortunate to be assuming the stewardship of a franchise poised for greatness,” Greenberg added. “The tremendous foundation of talent that has been assembled on both the major and minor league levels, combined with our passionate commitment to achieve excellence in every facet of the organization's operation, and the pent-up thirst for success we observe from our fans every day, creates the opportunity for the Rangers to become one of the great franchises in baseball.”
Hicks and Greenberg both expressed their appreciation for the efforts of MLB, particularly the Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig, for facilitating this stage of the transaction.
Because the transaction is still subject to MLB approval and other matters, specific terms were not announced. The deal could be completed by April.
“In the short-term,” said Hicks, “Chuck, Nolan and I will focus our attention not only on the transaction but on making sure the Club operates in a business-as-usual manner. Pitchers and catchers report in just 26 days.”
“The efforts of the last few years are evident in the very positive direction in which the Rangers are heading,” said Ryan. “We look forward to continuing that work for the 2010 season and beyond. I am excited to have the opportunity to be a part of this organization as we go forward.”
Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Raine Advisors and Perrella Weinberg Partners LP served as financial advisors, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP served as legal counsel, to Hicks Sports Group. McGuire, Craddock & Strother, P.C. served as real estate counsel and Cousins Properties Services LP served as a real estate consultant to Ballpark Real Estate.
For the buyers, Rangers Baseball Express, Evolution Media Capital and CAA Sports Media Venture served as financial advisors, and Foley & Lardner LLP and Sherrard, German & Kelly, P.C. served as legal counsel. Leib Advisors served as the tax and accounting advisors to the buyer.
UPDATE (9:40PM ET): Jeff Wilson reports:
The deal, according to sources, cuts owner Tom Hicks almost entirely out of the picture. He will be a partner with Greenberg and Ryan, but his ownership share will be very small, sources said, and his spot on the new board of directors is in question.
While the percentage is not indicated, the lowest amount of minority ownership for HSG would need to remain at 5 percent or higher for tax avoidance purposes. Below that figure, and HSG would pay tax as if it were a straight cash sale. This action was done most recently with the sale of the Chicago Cubs.
THIS IS BREAKING NEWS...
A source to The Biz of Baseball, plus this report by MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, indicates that the sale agreement between Hicks Sports Group and the ownership group headed by Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and current Rangers president Nolan Ryan has been completed, with official news coming from the Greenberg/Ryan group shortly.
According to Sullivan, the deal needs approval by the creditors of HSG. It would also need approval by 75 percent of the league's 30 owners, which could be done by conference call.
More news as it becomes available
Maury 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. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
Follow Maury Brown on Twitter
Follow The Biz of Baseball on Twitter
Follow the Business of Sports Network on Facebook