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MLB Club Sales
News and information about the sale of all or part of any of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs.

Greenberg Evokes Anniversary of Ryan-Ventura Tussle on Auction Day PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 04 August 2010 07:43

Ryan and Ventura fight

Hpw's this for a coincidence?

Chuck Greenberg, the Pittsburgh sports attorney who has partnered with Nolan Ryan and is attempting to purchase the Texas Rangers, has posted a message on his Facebook page regarding today's auction for the purchase of the club, and with it, sees an interesting day in history that coincides with his partner, Nolan Ryan. Greenberg writes:

Big day ahead. We've had the best bid and strongest ownership group all along, and today we demonstrate it once and for all. Thanks to everyone for your support. I can't tell you how much Nolan and I appreciate it. Now its time to bring it on home. See you at the ballpark for the Yankees next week...by the way, on this day in Rangers history in 1993, Robin Ventura paid a visit to Nolan on the mound. So step on up...

The Biz of Baseball will be focued in on this story the rest of this week. I will be conducting a chat here on The Biz of Baseball during part of the day as news breaks.

The auction is set to begin at 9am CT

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On FanGraphs: A Primer on the Texas Rangers Auction, News Corp Out of Bidding PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 03 August 2010 15:11

Texas RangersUPDATE #2: Added that Jeff Beck has dropped out of the auction

UPDATE #1: Added that Jim Crane will act as lead with Mark Cuban as partner for Weds.' auction.


With the complexities of it all, and the auction set for tomorrow, it seemed appropriate that a primer on the process for the sale of the Texas Rangers was in order. The process, which begins at 8pm CT tonight and won’t end until mid-afternoon on Thurs. is the topic for my column today for Fangraphs (see What’s In Store for the Texas Rangers Auction):

 

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that News Corp. will not be bidding for the Rangers, according to Randy Freer, president of Fox Sports Networks. Also, Dennis Gilbert has dropped out, although he had dropped off the radar some time ago, and was thought to be marrying up with Jim Crane.

Sources to The Biz of Baseball indicated early Tuesday that Mark Cuban and Jim Crane have filed bids simultaneously ahead of the 8pm CT deadline and are working together, with Jim Crane acting as the lead. It has also been reported that Jeff Beck has dropped out setting up what could be a Greenberg/Ryan vs. Crane/Cuban auction.

[AND]

How Much is the “Breakup Fee”?

If the Greenberg/Ryan group does not win at auction, they are entitled to compensation for all the legal work done in advance that the other bidders have not had to deal with.

Judge Lynn has altered how much the group could gain back, and the amount is dependent on their decision making process.

They can elect to:

A) 125% of the group’s costs or expenses, or;

B) $10 million before the court determines which of RBE expenses and costs are allowable.

At no point will the break-up fee be allowed to exceed $13 million

Does Lynn Have to Take the Highest Bid?

This is the $64,000 question in all of this: Does Judge Lynn have to accept the highest bid, or is this a matter of seeing that there was a fair process in play? The answers to this will come out of the bidding on Weds. and from how Lynn interprets matters when the outcome of the auction is covered during hearing on the Thursday after auction.

Look for more news as it becomes available.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Maury Brown will be featured on Sunday Aug 8. in Points, which is part of The Dallas Morning News' weekend Opinion section. The Dallas Morning News will be interviewing Brown on Thursday, shortly after Judge Michael Lynn rules on the outcome of the Rangers auction.

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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 FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. 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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Mark Cuban Looks to Force MLB’s Hand on Approval in Texas Rangers Sale PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 02 August 2010 20:42

Mark Cuban

Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban is pushing MLB to say that if he wins at auction to purchase the Texas Rangers on Weds. he should go up for a vote of approval by MLB’s 30 owners by no later than Aug. 16. Cuban, in court documents filed today through his “Radical Pitch, LLC”, said he is seeking an Emergency Motion for Order Directing Major League Baseball and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball to Expedite the Approval Process saying that in discussions with the league on Saturday, “Major League Baseball (“MLB”) and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball (the “BOC”) informed Radical Pitch that its approval process could take as long as six (6) to nine (9) months.” The filing adds that Cuban had requested MLB and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball “to expedite the approval process but, as of the filing of this Motion, has received a response to its request.” It is assumed that there is a typo in the sentence in the filing as it should read “had not received a response to its request.”

Cuban Filing
Read Cuban's filing

Strong wording goes on to say that, “MLB and (Office of the Commissioner of Baseball) have the ability to expedite the approval process but, for some unknown reason, appears wholly unwilling.”

The request goes on to say that if Cuban is the successful bidder at Weds. auction, “Radical Pitch must close on or before August 16th.” The filing does not elaborate as to why the Aug. 16 date must be met.

(Read Cuban's filing)

Cuban adds that “it is necessary for Radical Pitch to have a fair and level playing field with (the Greenberg/Ryan group), the stalking horse bidder.”

Major League Baseball has said that Greenberg/Ryan, their preferred group, could be approved by Aug. 12 if they were to win at auction. The group requested a speedy auction date as financing commitments are set to expire on the 12th.

Cuban was pre-approved prior for bidding on the Chicago Cubs when they were up for sale. The league has claimed that the extra time for any bidding group that wins at auction on Weds., other than Greenberg/Ryan, needs extra time for the 30 owners to conduct due-diligence before conducting a vote for final approval. The Major League Baseball Constitution, under Article V, Section 2, goes on to say that three-fourths of the leagues owners must approve, “the sale or transfer of a control interest in any Club”.

With final bids being required by 8pm CT on Tues., Judge Michael Lynn, who is overseeing the case, would have to hold the hearing on Tues. before the 8pm deadline, if Cuban’s funding is contingent on a speedy approval. If Judge Lynn were to deny the hearing, and Cuban were to pull out of the auction, the creditors in the case might likely say that the process is not fair without having Cuban in play.

The motion, along with MLB’s approval process, could have broad implications for not only baseball, but other sports leagues. The NHL, NFL, and NBA all have similar provisions within their league constitutions. Most recently, the NHL’s constitution regarding ownership transfer was challenged as part of the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy case. The difference maker for Judge Baum in that case was that Jim Balsillie was looking to purchase the Coyotes from Jerry Moyes, and forcibly relocate them to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Baum declined to rule either way in the case, but made it clear relocation over league approval was a looming aspect that he was not willing to address.

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Up to 9 Mon. Delay if Greenberg/Ryan Not Auction Winners for Texas Rangers PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 02 August 2010 01:52

Texas RangersIn an article Sunday, we reported that approval for any bidders, other than the Greenberg/Ryan group, that might win at auction for the sale of the Texas Rangers on Weds. would need up to 3 months extra time for MLB’s owners to vote for approval, thus putting the club’s moves in the off-season in jeopardy.

But, according to a report by Barry Shlachter of the Dallas Morning News, the length of time for voter approval is 9 mon., a full 6 months longer than sources had indicated. That could mean a new owner for the club might not be in place until well after the 2011 season started.

Mavericks  owner Mark Cuban  confirmed that MLB is now saying it will take up to nine months for final approval of the auction's winner if Greenberg-Ryan loses – not six to 12 weeks that a league attorney had assured U.S. Bankruptcy Judge D. Michael Lynn in court.

Cuban said by e-mail that the timetable "would apply for all bidders, so I'm not sure it's an issue at all."

While the extended amount of time would be painful to the plans of the Rangers, who would be stuck in limbo regarding free agency moves, as Shlatchter notes, the creditors of Hicks Sports Group, the holding company for the Rangers, would be likely feel far more pain. The added time would add approx. 4 percent more interest each month to the now $590 million in outstanding debt that HSG has defaulted on.

MLB has said that if the Greenberg/Ryan group were to win at the auction on Weds., the league’s 30 owners are prepared to approve the ownership transfer via conference call and have the sale completed by Aug. 12, the day that the group’s funding commitments expire.

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Outcome in Texas Rangers Auction Could Mean Losing Cliff Lee, Others PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Sunday, 01 August 2010 13:40

Texas RangersUPDATE: A report on Monday shows that: Nine Mon. Delay if Greenberg/Ryan Not Auction Winners for Texas Rangers

For only the second time in Major League Baseball history, one of its clubs will be put up for auction. Bids for the purchase of the Texas Rangers are due at 8pm CT on Tues. with the auction taking place Weds. and the outcome announced on Thurs. The last time a club was auctioned off in bankruptcy was 1993 when Peter Angelos beat out Jeffrey Loria for the Baltimore Orioles.

The outcome of the auction process could have consequences for any chance of the Rangers being able to competitively work to retain LHP Cliff Lee. Since coming over to the Rangers from the Seattle Mariners he is 1-1 with a 2.55 ERA, striking out 25 in 35.1 innings pitched and is seen as a cornerstone to any postseason run for the Rangers who currently sit in first place in the AL West with a comfortable 8.5 game lead on the LA Angels.

Major League Baseball has said that it is set to approve their preferred group of Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan by Aug. 12, should they win out in the auction process. The lenders of Hicks Sports Group, who owns the Rangers and has defaulted on $525 million in loans, oppose the Greenberg/Ryan group, going so far as to provide bridge funding for other bidders in an attempt to gin up the group, or push them out all together.

The bidders expected to be involved at the auction include Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and Houston businessman Jim Crane, Dallas businessman Jeff Beck, and possibly Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (as of publication it was unclear if News Corp had been cleared by MLB as an approved bidder for the process). Cuban and Crane have reportedly been offered funding by Monarch Alternative Capital, a “predatory” hedge fund that is now carrying the majority of debt for HSG. Monarch has been the primary stumbling block for the Greenberg/Ryan group completing the sale.

(For more, see Mark Cuban is Sleeping with the Enemy in Texas Rangers Sale, FOX May Bid on Club)

Should a group other than Greenberg/Ryan win at auction, MLB has said it could be 3 months before owners could decide to vote for approval; sometime in early Nov., baseball’s off-season when free agent players, such as Cliff Lee, are traditional signed.

And that’s not to say that MLB would approve any ownership group other than Greenberg/Ryan. Should the league’s 30 owners fail to reach a 75 percent vote in favor of the auction winner, the length of time the Rangers could be stuck in limbo could extend further still. Scenarios such as the league seizing the Rangers, the lenders going to court to challenge MLB’s constitution, which details ownership control rights, all could play out. A $21.5 million loan by MLB, which has allowed the club to work deals, such as Lee’s at the trade deadline, would easily be exhausted by the off-season.

And, it’s not just Lee that could wind up not being resigned. Below is a list of free agent players that see contracts expire at the end of the season:

  • Cliff Lee
  • Christian Guzman
  • Jorge Cantu
  • Bengie Molina
  • Frank Francisco

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Mark Cuban is Sleeping with the Enemy in Texas Rangers Sale, FOX May Bid on Club PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Saturday, 31 July 2010 12:16

Mark Cuban

Late last night, I got word through a source close to the Texas Rangers bankruptcy proceedings that Mark Cuban was actually a second-lien lender to the club, as he had been buying up debt of the club. I didn’t have a second source at the time, so I waited on the story. The idea that a lender to the Rangers would look to purchase them, and that someone is Mark Cuban, is a heck of a twist to a story that has had more than their fair share of them. This morning, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News got to the story first, with Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram reporting, as well.

But, what I didn’t know was that Cuban is also working with the main lender that has had the Rangers sale in a headlock this whole time, the “predatory” hedge fund, Monarch Alternative Capital.

A bit of commentary is due...

As I wrote for FanGraphs, Cuban hasn’t been able to get in the front door buying a club, so has been active in working clubs in bankruptcy (first the Cubs, now the Rangers). He’s buying debt of a club he wishes to purchase, and the logical assumption, based on Wilson’s report, working bridge financing with Monarch for the Weds. auction of the club.

And Cuban’s lawyer said the enhanced bid worked out with William Snyder by the Greenberg/Ryan group was “collusion” which is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black after hearing Cuban is working with Monarch.

In more than one piece (see here and here), I have said that Cuban isn’t exactly the type that fits the ownership mold that Bud Selig has created. That’s one thing. This move by Cuban is another.

"I want to see the Rangers run," Cuban said to KTCK-AM in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. "I think Chuck and Ryan deserve a lot of credit and what they're doing is a good thing, but with the way the deal has been structured, there is some risk there. And so I offered to help on a bunch of different levels so let's see what happens."

Cuban added that he was hoping he was more of a “backstop than anything else.”

"It really can be a good deal financially, but someone needs to be a backstop."

So much for being a “backstop.”

If I have been saying that Cuban is trying to get in through the backdoor in an attempt to purchase the Rangers, MLB must now see it as trying to get in through the garbage shoot. I place the odds at around nil that Cuban would gain approval from MLB’s owners, and for good reason. If he can’t be trusted before he’s an owner, how can he be trusted with the club once he is? The move by Cuban certainly isn’t going to endear him to Nolan Ryan, who is a looming factor in all of this. Why would Ryan want to work for the man that shafted his group by working with the main roadblock in the sale (Monarch Alternative Capital)?

To Cuban, I offer some advice: Look at what Jim Balsillie did in his attempt to purchase an NHL club. Start looking back before the Coyotes, and end with how the Phoenix bankruptcy case ultimately wound up. Cuban is not any different than Balsillie in this sense... Not smart enough to see the overall when it comes to league ownership rules. Trying to shove your way to the table always has consequences. Even if you do somehow land the club, the Rangers will become a pariah. Try getting any favoritism from the league or owners once you do land the club. Fat chance.

FOX Looking to Be a Bidder for Rangers

In other news, according to Alfano and Schlachter of the Star-Telegram, Rupert Murdoch’s FOX Sports is looking to bid on the purchase of the Rangers, as well. Coming in late to the game, they have yet to be approved by the league, which might be a stumbling block due to how FOX did running the Los Angeles Dodgers. For those asking why they are interested in purchasing the Rangers, the reasoning seems to be in protecting broadcast rights at the local level with FOX Sports Southwest. The deal with FOX Sports SW doesn’t run out till mid-decade, so as sports consultant Mark Ganis said, “it's a bit like the tail wagging the dog,”

One thing is certain, next week is going to be more than interesting with the Rangers. Bids are due in by 8pm CT on Weds. with the auction beginning the next day. The outcome of the auction will spill over to Thursday when Lynn will announce its outcome.

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Judge Keeps Aug 4 Auction For Texas Rangers, After Enhanced Bid Offer Rejected PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 30 July 2010 14:19

Texas RangersTHIS IS BREAKING NEWS...

In an attempt to prevent an auction for the Texas Rangers occurring, the group led by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan offered up, what William Snyder, the CRO in Chapter 11 bankruptcy case called "substantially enhanced" by stripping out all side deals. Those side deals, including a $70 million land sale that would benefit current owner Tom Hicks, would have increased the cash amount to approx. $349 million, about $40 million higher than the previous Greenberg-Ryan offer on the table. That deal was contingent on the an auction for the sale on Aug. 4 being called off.

Later in the hearing, with lawyers for Mark Cuban and Jim Crane in attendance, the judge rejected the plan, and with it, the auction is still a go for Aug. 4. In-between a hearing is set for Monday, Aug. 2. That hearing, which had to the capacity to be a confirmation hearing for the "prepackaged plan" presented by the Greenberg-Ryan group, will now likely be a shifted to a status conference.

Clifton Jessup, the lawyer representing Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said “We have money,” Jessup said referring to Cuban being competitive at auction which requires starting above the current Greenberg-Ryan bid as a "stalking horse". Jessup added that approving the plan without an auction “is not fair and is not reasonable and smacks of collusion.”

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Greenberg-Ryan Group Enhances Bid for Texas Rangers, Cuban Officially Pursuing PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 30 July 2010 10:33

Texas RangersUPDATE #1: Adjusted article to note that Mark Cuban has officially filed to pursue purchase of the club.

UPDATE #2: Added details of bid enhancement

UPDATE #3: Aug. 2 hearing details added.


At a conference hearing today for the bankruptcy sale of the Texas Rangers, the group of investors led by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan have offered up a “substantially enhanced” bid that has been approved by William Snyder, the chief restructuring officer appointed by the judge in the case, according to a report by Bloomberg News. Barry Schlachter of the Star-Telegram adds:

All side deals -- which have been a sticking point for big lenders who questioned the fairness of the Greenberg-Ryan bid -- have been stripped out.

That apparently means that Hicks won't get paid for the assets he had kept in the original deal, including parking lots and a centerfield office building at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Schlachter adds that "the cash amount of the new bid is about $349 million, about $40 million higher than the previous Greenberg-Ryan offer on the table."

“It’s a fair price with a certain outcome,” Snyder told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge D. Michael Lynn. Snyder didn’t give details of the new offer.

In related news, the lenders of Hicks Sports Group, the holding company of the Rangers that has defaulted on $525 million in loans, have offered up financing to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in order for him to be competitive at a scheduled Aug. 4 auction for the sale of the club. Cuban's "Radical Pitch, LLC" entered a "Notice of Appearance" filing late last night, signalling that he will indeed be involved, should an auction take place.

Lawyers for Cuban and Monarch Alternative Capital, the hedge fund that holds the most debt of the Rangers, lashed out at the new bid, which was done between Snyder and the Greenberg/Ryan group without their knowledge. Clifton Jessup, the lawyer representing Cuban said the Mavericks owner had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on due-dilligence in the purchase, and likened the move as an "October surprise" that would have a "chilling effect" on the auction, if it were to take place. Houston businessman Jim Crane has said he has added other investors in an effort to be competitive.

While Judge Lynn has not said, there is the possibility that with the enhanced bid stripping out the side deals, such as the 154 acres of land surrounding the Ballpark, he could approve the prepackaged plan by saying that all "classes" are now unimparied, and thus, the auction scheduled for Aug. 4 would be cancelled. It is unclear at this point if Lynn is leaning that way.

Schlachter adds in his report that "Greenberg's attorney, Tom Lauria, has agreed that the auction simply be postponed for two weeks," an interesting twist in that Greenberg/Ryan, as well as MLB, argued that investors within the group could pull out after the Aug. 12 expiration of the Asset Purchase Agreement (APA) reached in May. The extension may be offered up to allow further tweaking and allow Lynn to approve the Plan.

UPDATE: Judge Lynn has approved a confirmation hearing for Aug. 2 at 11am CT called by the CRO regarding the amended pre-packaged plan.

The lenders have been adamantly opposed to the Greenberg/Ryan bid, going so far as to state in court that they would be willing to see the group pushed completely out of the process in order to see another group ultimately own the club. Major League Baseball has backed the Greenberg/Ryan group, and the lenders are currently collecting information through discovery, including scheduled testimony from the likes of Commissioner Selig and eventually Chuck Greenberg, that could be used to file lawsuits in order to collect damages, should the sale not turn out their way.

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From Alex Rodriguez to the MLBPA, Objections Fly in Texas Rangers Case PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 29 July 2010 14:55

Texas RangersHere come the objections in the Texas Rangers bankruptcy case to the current amended “pre-packaged plan”. With the filing deadline for objections fast approaching, a litany of interests are setting law firms into action.

Alex Rodriguez, who, being Alex Rodriguez and the largest unsecured creditor (see the list of the 30 largest unsecured creditors), filed his own objection to the plan seeking verbiage within the plan that guarantees he receives his $24,892,061.62 in deferred compensation. In doing so, A-Rod is, more or less, doing his own bit of “double lawyering” as the committee for all the unsecured creditors have filed objection to the plan based upon written guarentees. That would cover the likes of other Rangers players such as Kevin Millwood, Michael Young, Vicente Padilla, Mickey Tettleton, and Mark McLemore, but lalso businesses such as Tickets.com, Rawlings, New Era Caps, and hundreds more.

Judge Michael Lynn has ruled prior that based on the bankruptcy code the class of unsecured creditors are deemed to be “unimpaired”, so it is unclear how the judge would rule on the objections. However, it is possible thatother bidders at auction on Aug 4 outside of the group led by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan may not agree to pay the unsecured creditors, Lynn may now seek to have concrete verbiage added to the prepackaged plan that other bidders will mark up for consideration by the judge, should they win at auction.

While Alex Rodriguez may be grabbing the headlines due to star power, an objection by MLBPA may have more relevance. The union conditionally supports the sale, but is looking to protect the pay of players on the Rangers roster.The union for the players is objecting to plan, as well, citing the need to repay the Rangers players owed deferred compensation, but also guarantees that money in escrow to cover deferred compensation is covered in the future, citing the unitform player contract within the collective bargaining agreement. The section citied, with emphasis added reads:

In all instances of the sale, trade, exchange or other change or transfer in the ownership of a franchise, all obligations owed to present or former Players arising under a Uniform Player’s Contract shall be the obligation of the new ownership of such franchise.

The filing adds, “The Association wishes to see a prompt transfer of the Rangers’ baseball franchise to viable new ownership” adding that For the reasons expressed by Rangers President Nolan Ryan and Manager Ron Washington … an expeditious sale of the Rangers is essential for the reinvigoration of the franchise and the morale of the Club.”

Most important, the MLBPA argues that, “Approval of a transaction that does not comply with the Basic Agreement would violate the provisions of the Bankruptcy Code prohibiting a unilateral termination or modification of the terms and conditions of a labor agreement.”

While there has been numerous accounts of the league being able to have powers through its constitution that regardless of the highest bidder at auction, MLB has the right to approve ownership transfer of the franchises, the MLBPA also sees the right to have powers to approve ownership. The filing adds, “The Association also reserves its rights in the event multiple bidders participate in the auction and there is a dispute before this Court as to which bidder should be approved.”

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Judge Orders Aug. 4 Date for Auction of Texas Rangers PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 27 July 2010 12:07

Texas Rangers

THIS IS BREAKING NEWS...

Judge Michael Lynn, who is overseeing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case of the Texas Rangers, today granted the request to keep the auction date for the sale of the club on Aug. 4. William Snyder, the chief restructuring officer in the case, had requested an Aug 9 date for the auction yesterday during a status conference saying other potential bidders did not have enough time to garner needed funds, but Lynn said he wanted to see the auction held on the 4th and have it finalized by noon on the 5th.

Factoring into the decision, the group led by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan has said that some investors within their group would not commit to funding after Aug. 12 when the Asset Purchase Agreement for the purchase of the Rangers is set to expire. MLB has said that they can approve the Greenberg/Ryan group by that date, should they win at auction.

In related news, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has said he will announce today whether he will, or will not, pursue bidding for the club at auction on the 4th, just one week from tomorrow. A meeting today of the potential bidders was to include representatives for the Greenberg/Ryan group, Houston businessman Jim Crane, Dallas businessman Jeff Beck, and possibly Mark Cuban, if he decides to continue pursuing the club purchase.

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