An auction for the Texas Rangers may proceed, a bankruptcy judge ruled, opening the way for Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to bid against Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan for control of the first-place baseball team.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge D. Michael Lynn in Fort Worth, Texas, made the decision today after the team’s chief restructuring officer, William Snyder, backed an “enhanced” offer from a buyer’s group led by Ryan and attorney Chuck Greenberg. A condition of the new offer was that the auction be called off, Snyder said.
Lynn denied a request from the Rangers to cancel the auction, siding with the team’s lenders. The lenders pushed for the auction to proceed as planned on Aug. 4 even though it means losing the certainty of the new Greenberg-Ryan deal.
“The money is the lenders’ money, and if they’re willing to roll the dice, I’m going to let them do it,” Lynn said.
Cuban and Houston businessman Jim Crane, who unsuccessfully tried to buy the team before its bankruptcy, are planning to bid, their lawyers said at today’s hearing. They may do so separately or together, said Clifton Jessup, a lawyer for Cuban.
“We are prepared to bid. We have money,” said Jessup, who pushed for Lynn to let the auction proceed. Selling without an auction “is not fair and is not reasonable and smacks of collusion,” he told the judge.
The Rangers filed for bankruptcy at the end of May with a plan to sell to the Greenberg-Ryan group, a deal the team valued at the time at $575 million. The lenders, led by JP Morgan Chase & Co., opposed the deal and called for competitive bidding. The Rangers later agreed to an auction.
“We’re prepared to have an action next week, and we’re prepared to live with the consequences,” said Andrew Leblanc, a lawyer for some of the lenders.
Snyder didn’t detail the terms of the new Greenberg-Ryan bid, which was confidential. He testified that he favored scrapping the auction because the new deal provided certainty for the team. He isn’t convinced there will be competitive bidding at the auction, he said.
Tom Lauria, a lawyer for the Greenberg-Ryan group, declined to comment about today’s ruling.
The case is In re Texas Rangers Baseball Partners, 10- 43400, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth).