Rangers Blocked From Making Better Deal by League, Lawyer Says

Major League Baseball prohibited the Texas Rangers from pursuing a sale to Houston businessman Jim Crane, leaving the team “stuck” with a deal it didn’t like, according to e-mails from a team lawyer.

The league blocked the team from talking with “anyone other than” Chuck Greenberg, who has an agreement to buy the team, even though Crane offered “a clearly superior economic deal” during negotiations last year, according to a lawyer for Hicks Sports Group, the owner of the Rangers.

“We need help here,” Glenn West wrote in a Dec. 31 e-mail. “Unless the lenders weigh in, we are going to be stuck negotiating a deal that is clearly worse than Crane’s.” The e-mail was sent to various people including executives at JPMorgan Chase & Co., which represents the first-lien lenders in the bankruptcy case.

West’s e-mails, made public yesterday in the Rangers’ bankruptcy case, show the team favored Crane’s offer and clashed with the league over the handling of the sale negotiations. Since filing for bankruptcy last month, the Rangers have said the sale to Greenberg is the best deal for the team.

Rich Levin, a spokesman for Major League Baseball, couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday. Greenberg, who has formed a partnership with Rangers president Nolan Ryan to buy the team, also couldn’t be reached. Mark Semer, a team spokesman, declined to comment. Crane couldn’t be reached for comment.

Potential Battle

In a court filing June 11, the team said the $575 million sale to Greenberg and Ryan, which requires bankruptcy court approval, offers “the best combination of price and least execution risk.” That risk includes “a potential uphill battle” for a rival to secure the league’s consent.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig described the proposed sale as in the best interests of baseball in an April 30 letter to JPMorgan Chase. Selig said he was “extremely disappointed” the lenders refused to consent to the sale.

The lenders oppose the Greenberg sale and are calling on U.S. Bankruptcy Judge D. Michael Lynn in Fort Worth, Texas, to order a competitive sale process for the team.

The exact terms of Crane’s bid were redacted in the e-mails, which were included as part of a court filing by the Rangers’ lenders. In a January e-mail, West wrote that Crane’s offer was “at least $13 million and perhaps more than $20 million ahead of Greenberg with a lot more certainty of closing.”

West wrote, “We are quite worried that if we don’t move to Crane immediately we will lose them completely.”

The case is In re Texas Rangers Baseball Partners, 10-43400, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth).