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Why the Creditors of the Texas Rangers Got Into a Bidding War with MLB PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 27 May 2010 01:19

Texas RangersIt was an interesting twist in the midst of the third day of hearings over the voluntary bankruptcy of the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.

The Rangers have already tapped $18.45 million in loans from MLB’s credit line, but as part of the voluntary bankruptcy, the “pre-packaged” plan called for $11.5 million in a new line of credit to allow the Rangers to function through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

During Weds. hearing, the lenders began counter-offers to MLB’s Baseball Finance, LLC credit line. At one point, the lenders offered up $40 million before both sides settled at $21.5 million. The move shocked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Lynn who said that he had never seen a case where the lenders in a bankruptcy case were competing for the right to finance the debtor in a bankruptcy proceeding.

“I’m very grateful to both sides for their effort to arrive at something that is most satisfactory for the Rangers, but I really don’t want the evidence changing during the course of the hearing,” Lynn said.

But, the question is, why did the creditors look to get into a bidding war over the interim funds? The answer is centered on a savvy bit of legal maneuvering designed to inflict a bit of financial pain on MLB.

What happened within the bidding process was MLB had to lower their interest rate on the interim funds. What was originally 5.75 percent, moved to 1.6 percent. For the lenders, no matter how much they said they would loan, or now low an interest rate, it would all wind up coming back to them through the bankruptcy process as part of primary lenders being paid off first. The net consequence of the action is that MLB is, in effect, paying the lenders an amount equal to the savings in interest.

Judge Lynn sided with keeping MLB the lenders, which means that due to this being a debtor-in-possession loan (DIP) they will receive payment before the creditors, but the lenders saw the maneuver as a victory.

“It was obvious they wanted baseball, but it was with our terms,” said Andrew Herenstein, the managing principal of the lead creditor, Monarch Alternative Capital, to The New York Times. “Our goal, even if we lost, was to reduce the cost of lending, which ultimately comes out of our pockets.”


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, 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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Creditors in Texas Rangers Sale Say There is a, "Higher Bid Out There" PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 25 May 2010 20:35

Texas RangersAt a bankruptcy hearing in Fort Worth, TX today, called by the creditors of Hicks Sport Group and the Texas Rangers, a lawyer for Tom Hicks told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge D. Michael Lynn that Hicks “just wasn’t willing” to continue to fund losses. In responce,  lawyers for the creditors said that the $575 million “pre-packaged” plan to complete the sale of the Rangers that was unveiled yesterday, without advance knowledge to the creditors, has “many conflicts” and that there is a “higher bid out there.”

The U.S. Trustee has filed a brief requesting that Judge Lynn treat the case as a traditional bankruptcy. If the Judge were to accept that request, the creditors would need to approve the sale.

In keeping with baseball interests saying that the “pre-packaged” voluntary bankruptcy could be done in 45 days, Judge Lynn set a June 15 hearing date at which point, if he were to rule in favor of the plan a second hearing on July 9th would held to approve the plan. If he were not to rule in favor of the 'pre-packaged" plan, other aspects of the bankruptcy case would be discussed on July 9th.

According to the plan outlined by Hicks, along with the prospective investment group led by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan looking to complete the purchase, the sale of the Club and its lease of the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, together with the separate sale of the land around the Ballpark, have an aggregate transaction value of approximately $575 million, and that the plan “provides sufficient sale proceeds for the Rangers creditors to recover 100 percent of the portion of HSG Sports Group’s debt that is guaranteed by the Rangers and for all Rangers creditors to be paid in full.”

If Judge Lynn were agree with the creditors that better bids are available through the process, the judge would open the process back up and bidders such as Jim Crane and Dennis Gilbert would be allowed to make offers on the Rangers assets.

The hearing lasted four hours, but that was just the first day. The second day of the hearing starts at 9:00am CT.

MORE ON THE BANKRUPTCY OF THE TEXAS RANGERS:


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, 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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HSG Creditors Over Texas Rangers Bankruptcy Filing: "This is now war" PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 25 May 2010 08:57

Texas Rangers

With the surprise move of the Texas Rangers filing for voluntary bankruptcy yesterday in an effort to complete the sale to Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan, creditors for Hicks Sports Group, the holding company for the Rangers will file a reply today at a 1:30pm CT hearing is scheduled in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas in Ft. Worth, according to SportsBusiness Daily.

[With the move yesterday] creditor sources promise a major response, with one source saying, "This is now war." The creditors’ lawyers are in Texas to contest the filing, which would give the creditors around $230M, one source said. They had been seeking about $300M and had bargained up to around $280M. But the bankruptcy filing takes away the gains made at the negotiating table over the last few months.

The creditors were able to block the deal after HSG defaulted last year. But by throwing the team into bankruptcy, the idea is that the old contracts are invalidated. On the other hand, it is always possible the judge could agree with the creditors that a fair auction was not held and re-open the sale.

The report adds the Nolan Ryan will be in attendance at today’s hearing.

More news as it becomes available.

RELATED CONTENT:

Breaking Down The Texas Rangers Move Into Voluntary Bankruptcy (includes bankruptcy petition)


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, 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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Breaking Down The Texas Rangers Move Into Voluntary Bankruptcy PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 24 May 2010 18:59

Texas RangersIn what can only be called a surprise move, Tom Hicks and the other current owners of the Texas Rangers Baseball Club, and Rangers Baseball Express, the local investor group led by team president Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg, moved the sale into a voluntary, “prepackaged,” court-supervised process under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in order to complete the sale, under the group name Texas Rangers Baseball Partners

HSG Sports Group, the holding company for the Rangers that is attempting to complete the sale to the Greenberg/Ryan group is $525 million in debt to 40 creditors, and has been at an impasse for months in completing the sale. At a press conference today, Tom Hicks said that the plan to push the club into voluntary bankruptcy started to be discussed approx. 3-and-half weeks ago.

The sale, already a complex deal to begin with, sees this new twist to its saga. But, what does it all mean? Here’s some info to help clarify what’s involved.

  • The deal on the table is the same deal that was on the table by the Greenberg/Ryan investment group (Rangers Baseball Express ) months ago which sees an aggregate transaction value of approximately $575 million, and includes the Rangers, and their lease of the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, together with the separate sale of approx. 154 acres of land around the Ballpark.
  • The plans byTexas Rangers Baseball Partners to go into voluntary bankruptcy was not made known in advance to the creditors.
  • The sale would see all Rangers debt, both secured and unsecured, paid. That means the secured  $75 million lien on the Rangers would be paid, and then other proceeds through the sale would pay off unsecured debt such as $61,988.16 owed Tickets.com or $41,167.79 owed Rawlings Sports Group, the $18 million loan that the Rangers got from MLB’s credit facility to cover operating expenses, and more.s
  • It should be noted that while the money will not be going into the escrow account, yet (the payment is not yet due), the Greenberg/Ryan group will make their required payment for deferred player compensation. Players such as Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Millwood, Michael Young, and Vicente Padilla are listed as the top unsecured creditors of the Rangers.
  • While the Rangers are in bankruptcy, a new line of credit from MLB’s facility fund would be offered the club to continue operating as it has been (see the complete details from today’s press release)

(See the list of the top 30 unsecured creditors listed in the bankruptcy petition - PDF)

  • While owners will approve the vote for ownership transfer, that technically would not occur unless the courts approved the sale to the Greenberg/Ryan group.
  • There has been discussion that it “this can't be a ‘paid in full’ thing. It has to be a ‘we've been paid enough to be happy’ thing.” As a matter of clarity, the Rangers are going into bankruptcy as they are in a state in which they cannot operate at their current levels, hence the partnership’s (and baseball’s) willingness to allow the deal to go into Chapter 11. The sale of the assets fulfill the obligation to pay the secured and unsecured debt, in full.
  • The biggest issue that those watching the sale need to take in is that this is about the Texas Rangers, not Hicks Sports Group. HSG has not yet been pushed into bankruptcy. The Chapter 11 filing, through the bankruptcy process, will extricate the Rangers from HSG Sports Group (formerly Hicks Sports Group).
  • Months ago, we reported that Tom Hicks would retain below 5 percent ownership of the Rangers, once the sale was completed. Sources close to the sale asked us not to divulge the exact amount of equity Hicks would retain, but that is now public record as Hicks made mention of it in yesterday's press conference. As “chairman emeritus” for three years, Hicks will retains a 1 percent ownership stake in the Rangers.
  • Finally, what legal recourse the creditors have is the unknown, although opening up the bid process to the likes of Jim Crane and/or Dennis Gilbert, has been mentioned repeatedly by the creditors to try and extract a higher sale price. There has been numerous discussions as to the lenders, not those in baseball, putting the Rangers assets into involuntary bankruptcy. In some senses, it looks as if that weapon was used upon the creditors, themselves. At the very least, it’s possible the transaction will languish in the courts far longer than those in Major League Baseball would like to see. And, certainly there will be a discovery phase where information that baseball would not like to see public, is unearthed and put on display (see what is part of what was made public as part of the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy proceedings)

See the complete bankruptcy petition by selecting READ MORE

Read more...
 
Texas Rangers Voluntarily Go Into Chapter 11 Bankruptcy to Finish Sale to Greenberg/Ryan Group PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 24 May 2010 10:19

Texas Rangers

THIS IS BREAKING NEWS...

Texas Rangers Baseball Partners, the current owners of the Texas Rangers Baseball Club, and Rangers Baseball Express, the local investor group led by team president Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg, today announced a plan to facilitate completion of the previously announced sale of the Club to the Greenberg-Ryan group.  The sale of the Club and its lease of the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, together with the separate sale of the land around the Ballpark, have an aggregate transaction value of approximately $575 million.

The Rangers sale will be accomplished through a voluntary, “prepackaged,” court-supervised process under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code pursuant to a plan previously negotiated and agreed to by the current Rangers owners and the Greenberg-Ryan group.  The prepackaged plan, which is supported by Major League Baseball, current Rangers ownership, and the Greenberg-Ryan group, provides sufficient sale proceeds for the Rangers creditors to recover 100 percent of the portion of HSG Sports Group’s debt that is guaranteed by the Rangers and for all Rangers creditors to be paid in full.

Texas Rangers Baseball Partners has requested that a hearing be held in 45 days to confirm the proposed sale and plan of reorganization.  The sale is expected to be completed by mid-summer, subject to court approval, which will then allow the franchise to exit the Chapter 11 process.

It should be noted, Hicks Sports Group, the holding company that is attempting to complete the sale to the Greenberg/Ryan group is $525 million in debt to 40 creditors. Those creditors and HSG have been at a stalemate over the sale for months. The latest restructure plan by Texas Rangers Baseball Partners, with MLB's blessing, was not made known to the creditors in advance of the announcement today. With the plan ostensibly fulfilling the debt surrounding the Rangers sale, it is unknown what legal footing the creditors have in chellenging the move.

“This plan to complete the sale of the Texas Rangers serves the best interests of the team, its fans, MLB and all other parties involved,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig.  “This agreement assures an orderly process to expeditiously transfer Rangers ownership to the Greenberg-Ryan group, and it protects the franchise’s baseball operations.  Rangers fans can have confidence that their team has the resources it needs to compete.  Clearly, this could not and would not have happened without Tom Hicks’ leadership and hard work over a long period of time.”

This process and sale are expected to have no impact on Rangers baseball operations.  While the sale is being completed, the current owners will continue to have control of the Club.  Motions have been filed with the court in order that:

  • The Rangers will be able to operate within their existing budget to sign and acquire amateur, international and professional players
  • Ticket prices remain the same and purchased tickets will continue to be honored
  • The fan experience at Rangers Ballpark will be unchanged, with all current amenities and promotions continuing as usual
  • All salaries will be paid
  • Rangers vendors and suppliers will be paid in full

“Since 1998, our family has taken great pride and joy in our association with the Rangers,” said Tom Hicks, who will be Chairman Emeritus of the Rangers.  “We are proud to play an active role in resolving the deadlock in this complex sale process.  Rangers fans deserve management’s full focus on baseball operations, and Nolan, Chuck and their colleagues will be outstanding stewards of the Rangers.  We stand ready to support them in every way possible, and as huge fans we will continue to cheer the Rangers on to the ultimate goal of a World Series championship.”

“Our goal is to move forward with our plan to create a long-term record of success and championships,” said Nolan Ryan, who will continue to serve as Rangers president.  “We will achieve that by being active in the player acquisition market as well as our ongoing commitment to develop players through one of the league’s best farm systems.”

“We are pleased to take this important step towards completion of our transaction,” said Chuck Greenberg.  “Tom Hicks has laid the groundwork for this sale in a manner that best addresses the interests of the Texas Rangers as well as all parties that have a stake in the team.  His agreement to sell the land around the Ballpark  in order to facilitate the sale of the Rangers is just one example of how he has been instrumental in achieving a result that is best for the franchise and its fans.  For our group, the focus will be on rewarding Rangers fans with great performance on the field and memorable experiences in the stands and in the community.”

“Nolan Ryan has a proven track record with MLB club owners and I am prepared to submit this to the owners promptly for their approval,” said Selig.  “Chuck Greenberg and this group of local investors are dedicated to building the franchise’s value and continuing the team’s contributions to the Dallas-Fort Worth community.”

MLB has agreed to provide the Rangers with a new credit facility to ensure that the Club continues to meet all of its obligations while the sale is being completed.

In a separate transaction, Ballpark Real Estate, L.P., an independent investment vehicle controlled by Tom Hicks, whose family also controls HSG Sports Group and its subsidiary Texas Rangers Baseball Partners, 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.  Rangers Baseball Express required this land as a condition to its willingness to purchase the Texas Rangers.  In return for the transferred land, Ballpark Real Estate will receive cash, notes, and an ownership position in Rangers Baseball Express.

HSG Sports Group and its other primary asset, the Dallas Stars hockey team, are not included in the filing.

The filing took place in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas in Fort Worth.  The Rangers filed customary “First Day Motions” with the Court, which are intended to ensure that the process is seamless and has no adverse impact on the Club’s operations, employees and suppliers.


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, 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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Would HSG or the Texas Rangers Be Forced Into Bankruptcy? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 18 May 2010 06:32

Texas RangersOn April 1st, the initial closing date for the sale of the Texas Rangers was to take place. When that date passed, prospective owner Chuck Greenberg said that based on how negotiations were progressing between the 40 creditors that Hicks Sports Group is over a half-a-billion dollars in debt to, mid-April was a possible closing date.

“The date is not a deadline or guarantee.” Greenberg said at the time. “As always in a deal of this complexity, nothing is concrete. But, the principles continue to work together, and the various timetables all align for the closing to be the week of the 19th.

Since then, mostly through predatory hedge fund, Monarch Alternative Capital, the sides have been approx. $30 million apart on what it will take to get the deal done. The Greenberg group is offering approx. $575 million for the Rangers and 154 acres of land surrounding Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. With no lien on the land component of the deal, Hicks Sports Group is offering $270 million in post-sale funds to the creditors, while the creditors have stuck to a $300 million figure in order to get the deal done.

Commissioner Selig has said that Major League Baseball could seize control of the Texas Rangers based on his “best interest of baseball” powers in order to sell the club without creditor approval, satisfy the $70 million lien on the Rangers, and let the creditors fight amongst themselves over what other money MLB would offer up (presumably at or near HSG’s $270 million figure).

At that point, the creditors have threatened to push the deal into involuntary bankruptcy in order to bring in other bidders that, they believe, would offer up more money in the sale.

But, what is unknown is whether the Texas Rangers or Hicks Sports Group would be the ones that the creditors would push into bankruptcy court. Indeed, nearly every media outlet (including this one) has reported that the Rangers would be pushed into bankruptcy, but that is not fully known.

In some senses, having Hicks Sports Group in bankruptcy makes the most sense, and the point where analysts are now turning their focus to, should Selig evoke his “best interests” powers. Hicks Sports Group, the holding company owned by Tom Hicks is the one that is overleveraged, and now sits $525 million in debt. Having HSG in bankruptcy would allow the creditors to have the courts decide the sale price for all of HSG’s assets up for grabs, with the presumption that a bankruptcy judge’s first best interest is in satisfying outstanding debt—a ruling in favor of the highest bidder for the HSG assets which includes not only the Rangers, but the NHL Dallas Stars, as well (Liverpool FC, which Hicks is selling his share of  is not listed as an asset of HSG).

Selig has said the sell needs to occur, and soon.

"That needs to be completed as expeditiously as possible -- underscoring, underlining ‘expeditiously’," said Selig, at the conclusion of  MLB’s owners' meetings in New York this past Thursday. "I'm concerned about the length of time it's taken. I'm concerned for the franchise, for their fans."

The questions looming over the situation is, why hasn’t Selig or the creditors pulled the trigger on their threats? It has been reported that the creditors have the involuntary bankruptcy paperwork drawn up. If Selig pushes the sale through, it allows the league to get an owner in place, and add a layer of difficulty for the courts to extract an owner that the league wants over all others. On MLB’s side, the longer they wait, the higher the odds are that the creditors pull the trigger on the involuntary bankruptcy threat, and in doing so, would place the Rangers  as “wards of the state” with the league running the club for however long the matter was wrapped up in the courts, presumably months; perhaps over a year.

Selig has said he wants to see the deal completed “expeditiously” which means it could be today or it could be weeks. This is, after all, Bud Selig we’re talking about; a man that has been known to move at a glacial pace on occasion. At some point, this high-stakes game of poker has to come to a conclusion. Whether it will be Selig, or the creditors making the first move, is the question.


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. 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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Selig Sets Deadline on Stalled Texas Rangers Sale PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 13 May 2010 12:06

Texas RangersThe quarterly meetings of MLB’s 30 owners has just wrapped up, and as we reported yesterday, action with the league seizing control the Rangers and selling the club without creditor approval is not taking place this week.

According to Eric Fisher of the SportsBusiness Journal (via Twitter), Selig has set “another deadline [to seize and sell the club], but he declines to say what it is.”

Asked what it would take to break the stalemate between Hicks Sports Group’s $270 million offer, and the lenders demanding $300 million, Selig said, "We'll let human events determine that."

Should the league seize the club from Hicks Sports Group, they would then quickly sell it to a group led by sports attorney Chuck Greenberg and current Rangers president and Hall of Fame pitcher, Nolan Ryan. MLB would then move to revoke the $70 million in liens on the Rangers, and let the creditors fight over the remaining $200 million, if that figure still stands.

The SportsBusiness Journal reported earlier this week that should the league sell the club without creditor approval, lenders would take an unfavorable view of lending to current or would-be owners of MLB clubs in the future. According to Fisher, Selig said that he does not expect negative effects on future deals from recent letter to Rangers creditors threatening to revoke the liens.

If the action takes place, the creditors would then move to push the Rangers into involuntary bankruptcy in an attempt to gain a higher sale price through former bidders Jim Crane or Dennis Gilbert than what the Greenberg/Ryan group is offering.

The total price of the Greenberg/Ryan offer is $570 million, but includes approx. 154 acres of land around Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and is not covered by a lien and therefore would not be part of any bankruptcy proceeding. Since the Ballpark is not owned by HSG, it is not an asset that could sold off in the sale.

Sources close to the sale would not divulge what the total assets surrounding the Rangers sale include.


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. 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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As Quarterly Owners Meetings Take Place, Here’s a Texas Rangers Sale Update PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 12 May 2010 12:00

Texas RangersToday marks the beginning of the quarterly meetings for Major League Baseball’s 30 owners, and with it, the discussion on the sale of the Texas Rangers is going to be at the top of the agenda. Here’s an update on where matters are at:

  • On Monday we reported that this week the league would take action with Commissioner Selig evoking his “best interest of baseball” powers to seize control of the Rangers with the league quickly selling them to a group led by Pittsburgh sports attorney, Chuck Greenberg, and current Rangers president and Hall of Fame pitcher, Nolan Ryan. The league has not backed down from taking action, but as of late last night, it appears that action may not occur this week. The reason? The league appears to be dotting their “I”s and crossing their “t”s before taking action.
  • Nolan Ryan is representing the Rangers at the owners meetings, a point that has rasied the discussion about whether the league is backing down from seizing the club. As noted, the league appears ready to go to the mat and seize the club in order to sell the club without creditor approval.
  • There’s been some churn going on across blogs and forums that the Greenberg group is undercapitalized  and overleveraged in this deal. Neither of these appear to be true. The group is within MLB’s rules regarding how much debt they can carry, and were able to gain what loans were needed in a difficult credit market.
  • There have been reports that creditors will turn their back on the league, should MLB force the sale of the Rangers through without creditor approval. According to sources close to the Rangers deal, and in speaking to sources in the finance sector, when asked if deals, such as the loans made to Hicks Sports Group would stop (deals that were not fully collateralized, placing HSG in a massively overleveraged position), the answer was, “yes.” However, when creditor sources were asked if sound loans would dry up over the action being taken over the Rangers, the answer was, “no.“

“We’re all learning valuable lessons from the Hicks Sports Group situation,” one source said. “I would expect closer inspection around how loans are approved, but if the requests are sound, baseball should continue to see credit lines open to them.”

As one source said more directly, “The loans by the original lenders to HSG should not have been made in the first place.”

More updates as news becomes available.


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. 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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Sources: MLB to Seize Control of the Texas Rangers This Week PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 10 May 2010 06:13

Texas Rangers

According to multiple sources, if the stalemate between Major League Baseball and a group of 40 creditors of Hicks Sports Group isn’t resolved this week, Bud Selig will use powers given the commissioner to seize control of the Texas Rangers and sell them to a group led by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan without creditor approval. Currently, Monarch Alternative Capital, a “predatory” hedge fund is reportedly holding out for $300 million in post-sale dollars while Hicks Sports Group is offering $270 million. The Greenberg/Ryan group has reportedly offered $570 million for the Rangers and 154 acres of land surrounding Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Creditors hold a $70 million lien on the Rangers, but there is no lien on the land, something that has angered creditors as they have no access to monies involved in that part of the deal. Major League Baseball has been acting as an intermediary between HSG and the creditors to finalize the sale.

If the action is taken, it is believed that the creditors would look to force the Rangers into involuntary bankruptcy with the hope of having prior bidders Jim Crane or Dennis Gilbert offer up more money to satisfy more of HSG’s $525 million in debt, while MLB would argue that historically professional sports leagues have been able to select who owns clubs within a league format, regardless of whether the selected owner is offering less than other bidders. Baseball wishes to see Nolan Ryan involved, given his strong standing in baseball.

Selig would use the “best interest of baseball” clause from the league constitution, which reads under Article II, Section 3 of “The Commissioner”:

In the case of conduct by Major League Clubs, owners, offices, employees or players that is deemed by the Commissioner not to be in the best interest of Baseball, punitive action by the Commissioner for each offense may include any one or more of the following:

(a) reprimand; (b) deprivation of a Major League Club of representation in Major League Meetings; (c) suspension or removal of any owner, officer, or employee of a Major League Club...

The SportsBusiness Journal confirms The Biz of Baseball's sources by reporting that "Selig has warned the creditors of the Texas Rangers owner that he could revoke their liens on the franchise if they do not approve the long-pending and controversial sale of the club, sources said last week."  According to the report:

While the creditors would still be paid back something from the proceeds of a subsequent franchise sale, the commissioner by taking this route would be blocking the lenders’ right to stop the sale and have a say in their payments. The creditors would surely sue in response, and one source said many of the roughly 40 lending institutions, which are owed $525 million, are already clamoring to file an involuntary bankruptcy petition on behalf of the Rangers. That document is ready to be filed, sources said.

Selig's warning has sent "shock waves through the sports finance world." As further reported by the SBJ, outside sources see financing issues for future club sales at stake.

“Bud can forget any lender, which includes any hedge fund or anyone, [lending] a single nickel or dime into baseball again,” said Joe Kosich, who owns advisory firm Dornoch Capital Advisors and formerly ran sports lending at Wachovia. “In my opinion, it’s cutting off his nose to spite his face. … It is completely wrong.”

The last time an MLB club was under league control was 2001 when owners voted 30-0 to form a Delaware partnership, Expos Baseball, LP, to purchase the Montreal Expos from Jeffery Loria with the intent to relocate and sell the club. That action occurred when MLB conditionally awarded the club to Washington, DC and Ted Lerner purchased them, rechristening them the Washington Nationals.

MORE ON MLB POSSIBLY SEIZING CONTROL OF THE RANGERS:

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of MLB Seizing the Rangers


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. 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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The Gloves Come Off.... PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Sunday, 09 May 2010 10:39

The gloves come off.... This week.


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. 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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