On Tuesday, a hearing could determine whether a “pre-packaged” plan by group of investors headed by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan will be approved by a bankruptcy judge, or whether the process will be reopened to other bidders, namely Houston businessman, Jim Crane.
The contention of creditors for Hicks Sports Group, who is the holding company for the Texas Rangers, is that Crane has had a better offer on the table than the Greenberg/Ryan group (Texas Rangers Baseball Partners) that would help absorb part of HSG’s $525 million in debt.
That contention was elevated in the press late Friday when The New York Times ran an article outlining correspondence between Glenn West, legal counsel to HSG, and a lawyer for J. P. Morgan, the creditors’ representative, saying, “Crane now has a clearly superior economic deal — and may always have had based on Greenberg’s current position.”
The article then goes on to say:
But Major League Baseball told H.S.G. that it had “our permission to negotiate only with the Greenberg group,” the filing says. In response, West wrote on New Year’s Eve to Thomas Ostertag, M.L.B.’s general counsel: “It appears Greenberg is using your position to simply refuse to negotiate in good faith; and the result will be a bad one for the team and our lenders (whose consent is absolutely required, just like yours, for whatever is ultimately done here).”
The creditors’ filing says that Crane’s offer was worth $13 million to $20 million more than the Greenberg-Ryan bid and that Crane told H.S.G. and M.L.B. that he would have gone still higher.
The key to the correspondence centers on the time in which the exchange occurred: December and mid-January. Why is the timeframe significant? Tom Hicks selected the Greenberg/Ryan group shortly thereafter and entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement (APA) that allowed the group to enter into an exclusive negotiating window where it is believed that the group increased their offer -- more than once -- during that window.
So, the question for the judge will be, is the correspondence cited by the creditors relevant?
On Friday, TRBP filed a Brief saying:
“TRBP entered into the APA with the best bidder for the Texas Rangers franchise, that is, the bidder that offered the best combination of price and least execution risk. Although the Lenders may speculate that there is a bidder that will pay marginally more for the Texas Rangers franchise, such a bidder faces significant execution risk, including (1) negotiating an acceptable asset purchase agreement; (2) reaching agreement with any non-debtor that will contribute assets as part of the asset purchase agreement; (3) a potential uphill battle to obtain MLB consent (or litigation with MLB regarding its consent rights); and (4) potentially greater financing uncertainty than the Purchaser.”
On the 15th in a Ft. Worth courtroom, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Lynn will hear arguments on the “pre-packaged plan”, that would allow for the Rangers to emerge from voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy with July 9th being the possible date that Lynn could rule to allow the transfer of the Rangers ownership to occur between HSG and TRBP, or whether the process is opened back up, thus allowing for Jim Crane to engage in the bidding process.
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, as well as a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog. 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.
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