Report: In the "Best Interests of Baseball," MLB May Seize, Then Finish Sale of Texas Rangers

A couple of weeks ago Major League Baseball threw a brushback pitch at Tom Hicks's head and told the for-now owner of the Texas Rangers: Do not foul up this sale to Chuck Greenberg by going behind our backs and cutting a side deal with Jim Crane, who's offering more money than Greenberg. Today comes word, via the Sports Business Journal, that MLB ain't screwing around: According to the report, in order to expedite the sale to Greenberg and Nolan Ryan's Rangers Baseball Express, MLB hopes to "seize" control of team -- and the sale process -- this week in order to get 'er done, and there's not a danged thing the creditors, chief among them predatory fund Monarch Alternative Capital, can do about it. Except ...

The report says that if MLB does what "multiple sources" say it intends to do, Monarch and the other creditors -- which want at least $30 million more out of the deal, money right now going to Hicks -- could drag the team directly into bankruptcy, which they've already threatened to do. I've called MLB for a comment and left a message, though MLB officials wouldn't speak to SBJ. And I'd send an e-mail to Hicks's spokesperson, Lisa LeMaster, but she's yet to comment on the sale and most likely won't till it's a done deal. And efforts to reach Greenberg or his reps have been unsuccessful. So, then, here's an excerpt from SBJ instead:

The coming developments, whether franchise seizure or another course of action MLB could be considering, may bring to a climax a bitter 3 1/2-month process that started with the January agreement between Greenberg and Hicks Sports Group (HSG), which owns the team. Many of the sources said they believe MLB's only option is franchise seizure if it wants to break the logjam, while others stressed that no firm decision had been made. ...

MLB is motivated in part to have the sale completed because it has been supporting payroll at the team since the default. But baseball may also be moving to act now because of worries the creditors could file an involuntary bankruptcy petition. At that point, baseball would not be able to exert the influence it could now, said Irwin Kishner, chairman of the corporate department at New York law firm Herrick Feinstein.

"In bankruptcy court, the judge wants to maximize the assets on behalf of the creditors," he said.

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