Astros’ Drayton McLane Agrees to Sell Team to Crane Capital’s Jim Crane

Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane sold the Major League Baseball team to a group led by Jim Crane, the founder of a transportation logistics company.

McLane, who bought the team for $117 million in 1993, agreed to sell it to Crane’s group in a deal worth $680 million, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The agreement, signed today at Minute Maid Park in Houston, also includes the sale of the club’s share in Comcast Sports Net Houston, the Astros said in a news release. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

The deal still needs the approval of three-fourths of Major League Baseball owners. Crane also tried to buy the Astros in 2008.

“It was the right moment,” Crane said at a news conference carried on the team’s website. “Drayton was ready to sell the team, he made that public, and we certainly always had the interest in buying the team.”

Forbes estimated in March that the Astros were worth $474 million, 14th among baseball’s 30 franchises in the magazine’s annual list of major league team valuations.

Crane, who played college baseball at the University of Central Missouri, is the chairman of Crane Worldwide Logistics, a global transportation logistics service. He founded it after losing a bidding war for EGL Inc., a freight-management company he also started, to Apollo Management LP in 2007.

“I was fortunate enough to be successful,” said Crane, who is also the chief executive officer of Houston-based Crane Capital Group. “A business of mine sold that I wasn’t trying to sell, I got in a bidding war with a big buyout firm, and actually lost the business. I got paid a lot of money.”

Rangers’ Bid

Crane, 57, lost out on the Texas Rangers last year in a bankruptcy court joint bid with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. The Rangers were sold to a group led by Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan for $593 million.

“We looked at a number of different teams and were fortunate enough going through that process to be able to see a number of the books and look at how other teams were run,” Crane said. “That gave us a lot of valuable information that enabled us to really close in and get a deal that worked for Drayton and a deal that worked for us.”

McLane, 74, revealed his plans to sell the team in November, hiring Stephen Greenberg of Allen & Co. to negotiate with potential bidders. Greenberg, who also is advising the New York Mets as they look to sell a minority stake, has represented the owners of the Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves in past sales.

McLane Co.

McLane bought the team two years after he merged his family grocery distribution business, McLane Co., with Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The club made the playoffs six times under his ownership, reaching the World Series in 2005, where it was swept by the Chicago White Sox. Houston is 15-25 this season, last in the National League Central, eight games behind the division-leading Cincinnati Reds.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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