By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The Rangers' 14-member board has yet to provide a budget to Daniels, who says he's unclear about the board's approval process regarding contracts such as Lee's. Rangers chief executive officer and managing partner Chuck Greenberg says RBE has loads of confidence in Ryan and Daniels and describes the board's decision-making process on contracts as "streamlined and seamless."
Whether the board green-lights an offer big enough to keep Lee or sign any other big-name free agents (Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder top next year's class), Greenberg says there are three elements necessary to succeed in sports: a burning desire to win, resources and the willingness to commit those resources.
In other words, money.
"What we went through successfully in the sale process embodies all three of those elements," he says reassuringly. "[It] is a great predictor of the way we're going to operate the franchise and should give people a tremendous source for comfort."
Setting aside talk of next season and the upcoming winter meetings for a moment, Greenberg casts his mind back to late November 2009. Previous owner Tom Hicks had put the Rangers on the block, and Greenberg, a 49-year-old sports attorney from Pittsburgh, was hustling to find investors willing to make a play for the team.
Even today, Greenberg says he can't quite explain how he talked his way into the offices and pocketbooks of a handful of North Texas' biggest names in the oil and gas industry and assembled RBE's 32-member ownership group in only a month, just beating a deadline to submit what he thought then would be the final offer for the franchise.
He compares the process to a scene from the movie Old School in which the doofus character played by Will Ferrell interrupts political consultant James Carville during a college debate to address a question about U.S. biotechnology policy. After giving a surprisingly intelligent and complex answer, Ferrell asks his teammates, "What happened?"
Despite links in the oil and gas industry among several members of RBE's owners, Greenberg claims that none of the investors he secured from October to November 2009 knew the identity of anyone else who had committed.
"At the time that the vast majority of our group came together, they were all attracted by the vision for the franchise, not by wanting to join one of their friends in making an investment," says Greenberg, owner of two minor league teams in Pennsylvania and South Carolina. "And I think that's one of the things that bodes really well for the future of the franchise."
RBE co-chairs Ray Davis and Bob Simpson, who did not respond to repeated interview requests for this story, have earned millions from the Barnett Shale—a North Texas rock formation that's one of the largest natural gas fields in the country. Davis, who co-founded Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners L.P. in 1996 and stepped down as its co-CEO in 2007, installed pipelines for XTO Energy Inc. through ETP, which owns the largest intrastate pipeline system in Texas.
Simpson co-founded Fort Worth-based XTO Energy in 1986 and continues to serve as its chair and a consultant after it was purchased this summer for $35 billion by Exxon Mobil. According to a list published by the Wall Street Journal of the 25 highest-paid U.S. business executives from 2000 to 2009, Simpson earned $350 million in compensation as XTO's CEO during the decade and ranked No. 1 for return on investment for stakeholders.
After Simpson faced criticism from Wall Street about the large bonuses paid to XTO employees in the first ($32.2 million) and second ($37.7 million) quarters of 2004, he told stock analysts in a conference call: "Yes, we pay ourselves, and we'll continue to do it. If that's offensive, I don't know what else to do."
While everyone in RBE clearly aims to earn a profit, Greenberg has no worries that Simpson's propensity to pay himself handsomely will affect the team's payroll. "There's no reason for concern in that regard at all," he says.
High-ranking XTO officials Keith Hutton, Vaughn Vennerberg II and Brent Clum are also RBE co-owners, along with Toby Darden, chair of Fort Worth-based Quicksilver Resources Inc., an oil and natural gas exploration and production company. Co-owners Ken Hersh and Billy Quinn are both managing partners for Irving-based Natural Gas Partners, a major investment firm in the energy industry. Hersh bought ETP through NGP for $35 million in 2002 and sold it five years later for $1 billion, while Quinn has also expressed interest in purchasing the Dallas Stars.
Greenberg says he found interested investors in other states, but he determined that building a group of mostly local businessmen would make RBE's deal more appealing to Major League Baseball and give his group the best chance to succeed long term.
"This was a community that thought the Rangers existed on the other side of a moat filled with alligators and all sorts of other scary creatures," Greenberg says. "We needed to reconnect the Rangers with the community, and a great place to start would be having the ownership group actually reflect and rise from the community itself."
Greenberg refuses to discuss specific ownership percentages. Only one of the 14 board members, Bob Beaudine, doesn't have an ownership stake in the team. Beaudine's the CEO of a Plano-based sports and entertainment executive search firm that led the search to hire Bud Selig as baseball's commissioner.