Texas Rangers get new owner in auction

An investment group won a contentious and unusual auction for the team, beating back a nearly US$600 million offer from a controversial NBA team owner.

FORT WORTH, Texas // An investment group led by Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher and Texas Rangers president, won a contentious and unusual auction for the team yesterday, beating back a nearly US$600 million (Dh2.2 billion) offer from a controversial NBA team owner.

Officials in the federal bankruptcy court announced the winning bid to a standing ovation in the packed courtroom, shortly before 1am local time and some 10 hours after the auction began. The group led by Ryan and Chuck Greenberg, a Pittsburgh sports attorney, had Major League Baseball's endorsement, and its final $593m offer included $385m in cash. The final hearing on the team's bankruptcy plan was scheduled for later yesterday.

"It was an emotional roller-coaster," Ryan said. Final approval of the Rangers sale rests with MLB, which had the option of choosing the second-highest bid instead. But it did not come to that. Bob DuPuy, the American League president, said: "I'm very pleased and I look forward to Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan leading the team for many years." Mark Cuban, the colourful owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was also smiling after the auction, despite losing. His group decided against making another bid after reaching a predetermined limit.

Cuban, who also looked into buying the Chicago Cubs last year, said he no hard feelings, and said: "I wish them the best." The winning bid was made just after midnight. Although the Cuban group had made a $390m cash offer, part of a $598m deal, the Greenberg-Ryan bid was considered higher because of how the bids are structured; it included a $10m to $13m break-up fee that would have been paid to the Greenberg-Ryan group if it lost.

Each group's bid included more than $200m of team debt, including $24.9m in deferred compensation owed to Alex Rodriguez six years after he was traded to the New York Yankees. The Greenberg-Ryan group had the starting bid - about $520 million - because it was named as the team's buyer months ago, before the deal was put in limbo by angry creditors and then by the team's May filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The auction, which included tense exchanges and even shouting between the attorneys, was the latest twist in one of the most contentious sales of an American professional sports team. The last Major League Baseball team to be auctioned off in such a way was the Baltimore Orioles in 1993. According to the team's bankruptcy plan, creditors will receive only about $75m from the team, no matter who ends up buying it. But the judge has said lenders, who are owed about $525m after team owner Tom Hicks' financially strapped ownership group defaulted on loans, can go after Hicks' other companies.

* AP