Jim 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 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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