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Will MLB Seize Control of the Texas Rangers Today? PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 07 May 2010 06:26


Texas Rangers

There is nothing set in stone. No deadline. Really, there’s simply Daniel Kaplan’s report in the SportsBusiness Journal that said it was possible this week. But, given the fact that neither the Rangers or the league has refuted the story, it’s possible that MLB could seize control of the Texas Rangers today in an effort to sell the club to a group headed by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg and current Rangers president and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.

The Biz of Baseball working to keep a finger on the pulse of the situation and will be reporting if any news breaks today. Check back often.

FOR MORE, READ THE FOLLOWING:

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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MLB Could Seize Control of Texas Rangers As Early As This Week PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 03 May 2010 09:17

Texas RangersThe stalemate between creditors and Hicks Sports Group over the sale of the Texas Rangers will see a dramatic turn this week, including the possibility that Major League Baseball could take control of the club, according to a report in this morning’s SportsBusiness Journal.

Were the league to seize the team under its “best interests of baseball”rule, MLB could sell the club to the group led by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan without, the league believes, the creditors blocking the deal, these sources said. But were MLB to choose that course — and late last week, the situation was still fluid — financial sources predicted a furious legal response from the creditors that could involve an involuntary bankruptcy petition on behalf of the baseball team.

[...]

In this case, if MLB settled on seizure, it would revoke HSG’s membership in MLB, theoretically invalidating the creditors’ rights because their contracts are with HSG. MLB could then sell the team and distribute the proceeds to the creditors and Hicks.

The creditors, however, would almost surely challenge MLB’s legal right to do so, setting up another test case of the rights of sports leagues, similar to the NHL’s successful battle in the Phoenix bankruptcy court. In that case, the NHL blocked the sale of the team because the buyer wanted to move the franchise to Canada without the league’s consent.

Attempts by The Biz of Baseball to reach Chuck Greenberg for comment have gone unanswered.

MLB took over control of the sales process in January as HSG and the creditors became stuck on a $30 million gap between the $270 million post-sale figure HSG was willing to offer and the creditors demanding at least $300 million. Hicks Sports Group has fallen $525 million in debt. The lead creditor, Monarch Alternative Capital – a predatory hedge fund that purchased $100 million of HSG’s depressed debt in order to make a profit – has been the sticking point in getting the deal completed.  According to the SBJ report, Monarch’s “fund manager Andrew Herenstein, has conducted one-on-one talks with MLB President Bob DuPuy, underscoring its central role.”

The last time MLB took control of a club under the “best interests of the game” clause was with the sale and relocation of the Montreal Expos. More recently, the NHL took control of the Phoenix Coyotes when they fell into bankruptcy.

If the measures by MLB or the creditors were to be enacted, legal fees would expand greatly in the process of completing the sale to the satisfaction of one side or the other, thus underscoring the $30 million gap which would be slowly chewed up by legal fees and continuing interest on the debt.

FOR MORE ON THE SALE OF THE TEXAS RANGERS SEE THE MLB CLUB SALES SECTION OF THE BIZ OF BASEBALL


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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Texas Rangers Possibly Going Into More Debt Could Be Good Thing PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 29 April 2010 17:24

Texas RangersAs odd as it may sound, the possibility that the Texas Rangers might need to borrow more against the $25 million credit line that MLB granted the club last summer may actually accelerate getting the sale completed between MLB and creditors of Hicks Sports Group. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News covers the story:

According to multiple club and industry sources, the Rangers will have to reach deeper into a $25 million line of credit Major League Baseball extended them if the sale is not completed by early June. The Rangers have taken $16 million since MLB extended the line of credit last summer. That was enough to last a year. Payroll has stayed essentially flat. So have revenues. Come the end of May, there could be financial issues.

As Grant notes, this incentives the lead creditor, Monarch Alternative Capital, to work toward getting the deal done.  As further reported:

Whatever monies the lenders would receive would only shrink if MLB has to give the Rangers more cash. MLB is first in line to receive payback because it is a creditor of the team, not the holding company. Everybody else waits behind it. And everybody else takes less.

That realization may be starting to sink in. There has been more conversation on the sale front since last week's war of words than in the last couple of months.

The deal has had the seller (Hicks Sports Group) and buyer (the group led by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg) sitting on the sidelines as MLB took over the sale process with the creditors in January.

For more see Media (and Fans) Read Close, If the Sale of the Texas Rangers is of Interest


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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MLB Releases Statement on Sale of the Texas Rangers PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 21 April 2010 21:35

Texas Rangers

Major League Baseball issued the following statement today regarding the sale of the Texas Rangers:

“As part of the Texas Rangers sale process, Tom Hicks selected the Chuck Greenberg/Nolan Ryan group as the chosen bidder on December 15, 2009 and entered into an exclusive agreement with that group. Major League Baseball is currently in control of the sale process and will use all efforts to achieve a closing with the chosen bidder. Any deviation from or interference with the agreed upon sale process by Mr. Hicks or any other party, or any actions in violation of MLB rules or directives will be dealt with appropriately by the Commissioner.”

Look for a column on the sale of the Rangers shortly. Join me Thurs. on WBAP 820am/96.7fm in the Dallas/Ft. Worth market at 7:45am CT to talk the sale of 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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Sale of Texas Rangers Continues With Creditors and HSG Negotiating PDF Print E-mail
MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 09 April 2010 17:55

Texas RangersUPDATE: Reuters has now corrected the article to read:

Minor league baseball team owner and sports attorney Chuck Greenberg was selected as the lead bidder in December and the next month reached a deal with sports tycoon Tom Hicks.

However, a final deal has not been reached that would satisfy Hicks Sports Group (HSG), its creditors and Greenberg.


The sale of the Texas Rangers remains a case of creditors and Hicks Sports Group locked-up over the difference in what HSG is willing to release and what the key lenders are seeking. The sides remained deadlocked with a gap of $35 million keeping the $570 million deal that would see Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan owning the club. The sides, with MLB acting as an intermediary between HSG and the creditors, continue to negotiate. Several sources indicate that the lead lender, “predatory” hedge fund Monarch Alternative Capital, as the main creditor locking the deal up at the moment.

It should be noted that a report from Reuters today said, “Greenberg has failed to finalize a deal with the creditors of Hicks Sports Group (HSG), which owns the baseball team and the National Hockey League's Dallas Stars.” Greenberg is not at the table with the negotiations and remains a case of HSG and creditors with horns locked.

There had been speculation that MLB would step in today and take over the club in order to expedite the deal to closure. As of late Friday, MLB had not taken such action, and may not do so.

The report also mentions that the bidding process could be reopened with Jim Crane or Dennis Gilbert being allowed back into the mix. There have been conflicting reports as to whether the Greenberg group had the highest bid, or not.  But, with a sale price of $570 million being well in excess of HSG debt, or more correctly, what HSG is offering up post-closing, the issue does not appear to be centered on total dollars but rather what HSG is willing to release.

Finally, there are owner approval issues to contend with. According to multiple sources, MLB wishes to see the Greenberg/Ryan approved for ownership transfer.

In a recent interview with The Biz of Baseball, Greenberg said that while there are no definaitive deadlines for the deal to be completed, if the natural course of negotiations were to continue, final approval could come the week of the 19th.

"Either Greenberg realizes the bid is too low or Major League Baseball reopens the bidding," a creditor source in the Reuters article said. "It's going to go on through next week and probably the week after that, maybe longer."


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Completed Sale of Texas Rangers Headed Toward Week of April 19 PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Saturday, 03 April 2010 20:30

Texas RangersChuck Greenberg, the head of the group purchasing the Texas Rangers, attended today’s Rangers Spring Training finale in Frisco, TX, where he was approached by the media regarding the sale of the club.

Greenberg said that based upon how the process is moving, the sales process should be done toward the end of April.

“The date is not a deadline or guarantee.” Greenberg said later after the game. “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.

The sale from Hicks Sports Group to the Greenberg group, that also sees Hall of Famer and current Rangers president Nolan Ryan as a key member of the investors, has been mired by HSG being in debt to a group of 40 creditors for $525 million.

The delay has been centered around how much the lenders will collect from HSG post-sale, and how much HSG is willing to offer. The creditors are seeking $300 million while HSG now has well in excess of $240 million on the table, which does not include additional funds that are subsequently released from an escrow account that will be funded at the close of the sale to protect against breaches of representatives and warranties by HSG.

Added to the mix, there are negotiations between the creditors themselves as to how money will be dispersed between primary and secondary lenders. Monarch Alternative Capital, a hedge fund that is the primary lender who now owns $100 million of the $525 million of HSG debt is seeking the most out of the sale, and is said to be the focus of how of how much the secondary lenders are likely to gain. Rumor has it that when completed, Monarch would get back their entire $100 million. If so, Monarch would see pure profit from the sale of the NHL Dallas Stars, also owned by HSG and being sold to satisfy debt obligations.

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Greenberg: Sale of Texas Rangers Won't Be Done By Opening Day, But Soon After PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 29 March 2010 08:42

RangersWith Hicks Sports Group and its creditors still locking horns, the sale of the Texas Rangers will not be completed by the self-imposed April 1 closing date, and by most accounts, not by Opening Day on April 4. The group of 40 creditors is looking to get the most out of Tom Hicks who has defaulted on $525 million in loans. Currently, Major League Baseball is acting as an intermediary between HSG and the creditors.

While the deal will not get done by its original closing date, both the league and Chuck Greenberg, who is heading the group in line to purchase the club see the deal being closed shortly.

When asked on Saturday by Evan Grant, Commissioner Selig said he was "very hopeful" that the deal would be completed soon.

"I'm going to be very happy to get this behind us," Selig said. "Nolan [Ryan] is anxious to get it done. Everybody is anxious to get it done. I'm very, very hopeful it will get done soon, but I'm always going to use the great Yogi Berra philosophy 'it ain't over until it's over'. I'm a patient man and sometimes you have to be patient."

Reached for comment, Chuck Greenberg remains optimistic.

“The process continues to move along,” Greenberg said. “Obviously, we would have we would have preferred to close the deal prior to Opening Day. But, not it’s not terribly surprising given that it’s a very complex transaction. And, in complex deals, you set a target date for the closing of the sale, where everybody works as hard as they can to reach that date. If you end up closing near the target date, you’re doing pretty well. Now, we still think we’re going to close near the target date. As long as all the right constituents are talking to one another in a constructive fashion, then we continue to move forward and I’m confident the sale will be closed in a couple of weeks after Opening Day.”

If for some reason the communication were to drop and the deal begin to stall, it’s possible that the league could lend their weight behind getting it to completion.

Evan Grant brought up the league having the option of taking control of the club from Hicks Sports Group in order to help expedite the deal. At that stage, there would be increased pressure on the creditors to accept the deal on the table. While having the deal get brokered without having MLB at the controls is the preferred way of going about matters, at this point the league may see that the creditors are working to get their “pound of flesh” out of Hicks, and that enough is enough; it’s time to get the deal completed.

This is key, so please note….

The Greenberg/Ryan group is not purchasing HSG. They are purchasing assets owned by HSG, which include the Rangers. There is currently a $70 million lien on the club, so in essence, an offer above the $70 million would be deemed to be satisfactory if the sale moved into bankruptcy court. The sale is for considerably more (granted, there is 154 acres of land in the mix, as well, and no… there is no lien on that land). The total sale price by Greenberg/Ryan is reported to be $570 million, but HSG is offering up a fraction of that to creditors, now reportedly $240 million, while the lenders are seeking $300 million. The gap is the main sticking point.

Of course the lenders’ position is to get as much out the deal as they can, and while MLB has no love lost with Hicks these days (see How Tom Hicks Became the Most Hated Man in Baseball), as mentioned at a certain stage, MLB could take over in order to help expedite getting the sale closed. Stranger moves have happened prior. For example, the Chicago Cubs were placed momentarily into bankruptcy in order help expedite that sale with creditors. It should be noted that the Cubs deal was also a sale that took longer than the initial deadline.

Overall, it’s a deal that, unless there is some unforeseen circumstance, should be resolved shortly.


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Gloryland Lawsuit Adds More Baggage to Texas Rangers Sale PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 23:52

Texas RangersTo say that Hicks Sports Group, the ownership of the Texas Rangers and NHL Dallas Stars, is a mess, might be the biggest understatement in sports business for this year, and possibly beyond. HSG, who is headed by Tom Hicks, is $525 million in debt, which would be bad enough, but then there is this:

  • They owe $17 million in loan money to the league fronted them to make payroll;
  • Failed to pay at least $39.55 million into a deferred compensation fund to players, which violated the collective-bargaining agreement, and;
  • They had to borrow $57 million from the league’s credit facility, an action that occurs with many clubs, but is being pawned off on the would be ownership group headed by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg, and current Rangers president and Hall of Fame pitcher, Nolan Ryan.

It’s enough to make one say, “It couldn’t get any worse.”

Well, it has.

As first reported by Michael Ozanian of Forbes, a “lawsuit was filed in Dallas County District Court in February by two companies that worked on the development of Glorypark against entities controlled by Tom Hicks.”

Glorypark was a 75 acre commercial and residential development that Hicks envisioned next to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington that Hicks started in 2005 but has been stuck in neutral since 2008 when Hicks began his slide into the aforementioned $525 million in debt.

In the court documents filed by Architecture firm RTKL and contractor VCC, the firms are seeking millions of dollars for work orders started by Hicks, but now sit idle.

As but one aspect of the claim, VCC says it is “owed not less than $4,018,960.00 inclusive of the $484,765.11 in design fees that would be remitted to RTKL upon payment to VCC for the parking design work.”

As to how the Glorypark deal impacts the sale of the Rangers, the land that was part of the stalled development is not part of the 153 acres that are rolled into the club sale, but as Ozanian notes, “the lawsuit could throw a monkey wrench in the deal if Hicks' creditors decide to go after the prospective owners.”.

If there is a silver lining for Greenberg/Ryan group, it’s this: there’s little doubting that the bloom is off the rose for any other would-be bidders of the club. With the additional debt that Hicks has tossed into the mix, the odds of the deal gaining in value is exceptionally slim. That would seem to help move the creditors toward settlement on the $570 million sale. As one National League executive said the sale, “it’s more than a bit messy.”

See the lawsuit filed against Tom Hicks:

Lawsuit
Select the image above to read the
complaint against Tom Hick (PDF)


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Creditors in Texas Rangers Sale Reject Latest Terms from HSG PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 16 March 2010 08:52

Texas Rangers

With the April 1 closing date coming up fast on the calendar, the 40 creditors of Hicks Sports Group turned down the latest terms for the sale of the Texas Rangers, according to a report by Daniel Kaplan in Monday’s SportsBusiness Daily.

Under terms of the initial deal, $230M of the proceeds would flow to the lenders, with the remainder consumed by existing commitments and liabilities. The lenders want at least $300M. On the conference call late last week with MLB, which is acting as an intermediary between the lenders and HSG, the offer came up by $10M to $240M, one source said. However, another source said the offer was $275M, with $20M of that in an escrow account to be paid in seven months. Neither one meet the minimum of $300M the lenders are seeking.

Chuck Greenberg, the lead for the group bidding to purchase the clubs, continues to believe that the deal will occur at or around the April 1 closing date. The group is in the awkward position of being at the mercy of the process between HSG and the creditors.

Hicks defaulted last year on $525 billion of debt. He is working to avoid the embarrassment of a possible bankruptcy.

In related news, Kaplan reports that “a prospectus is expected to be sent out next week to potential buyers of the [NHL Dallas] Stars from Galatioto Sports Partners, the investment bank HSG retained to sell the club.”


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Report: Sale of Texas Rangers Reaches Impasse PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 23:51

Texas RangersCompleting the sale of Texas Rangers was never going to be easy, but since the sales agreement between Tom Hicks and a group led by Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and Rangers president Nolan Ryan, sources within the group have indicated that while matters would be tight, the deal would get completed at, or close to Opening Day. With Hicks Sports Group being over a half-a-billion dollars in debt, a group of 40 creditors are looking to approve the deal before it heads to baseball’s owners for final approval.

And while the Greenberg/Ryan group has tried to paint a positive picture of the complex deal getting completed, word today is that, at least for the moment, the negotiations have reached an impasse.

The total sale price is said to hover around $570 million, but that the cash component going to the creditors is less than half that at $230 million. Daniel Kaplan of the SportsBusiness Daily paints part of the picture from Weds.” Closing Bell”:

The creditors, who must approve the sale, and MLB, which is acting as an intermediary between Hicks and his lenders, held a conference call last Friday that went very poorly, the sources said. The creditors are seeking a minimum $300M of the proceeds. “They have been at an impasse for weeks if not longer,” one source said. “Baseball has been deluding itself. No idea how long it can go.” MLB declined to comment.

A source close to the situation late Weds. added that it has been difficult sailing for some time. “When the creditors had their first meeting set with the potential ownership group, they were not happy to see that Chuck Greenberg didn’t make the trip. Since then, representatives from the league have tried to get around the issue of the creditors taking a back seat.”

The $70 million gap could be key, but according to Kaplan’s SportsBusiness Journal report from Monday, Greenberg “has arranged a loan commitment from Bank of America for $140 million to help fund the deal in the event the creditors agree to it, sources said. He plans to tap only $80 million of the funding immediately, one source said, leaving the remainder in reserve.”

Asked to comment about the Bank of America loan, the source replied, “Something has to give in order for matters to move forward.”


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