AP source: Greenberg-Ryan group Rangers finalist

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks will enter into an exclusive negotiation for the sale of the team to a group headed by Pittsburgh lawyer Chuck Greenberg, one that includes team president Nolan Ryan.

A person with direct knowledge of the situation said Tuesday night that the group also includes prominent local families, including Hicks’ family. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not yet been made.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig had called Tuesday a “hard and fast deadline” for Hicks to submit a prospective buyer for the team to the commissioner’s office.

After negotiations between Hicks and Greenberg’s group, any agreement must be submitted to the commissioner’s office and approved by 75 percent or more of all owners.

The timetable for completing the sale, expected to be for more than $500 million, wasn’t immediately clear.

Greenberg’s proposal was chosen over bids submitted by former agent Dennis Gilbert and Houston businessman Jim Crane. A new bid had been submitted just last week by Crane, a week after Greenberg and Gilbert had emerged as finalists in the process.

Earlier Tuesday at a holiday luncheon hosted by the team, Ryan said he had spoken to Greenberg, who was meeting with investment people to see how they could enhance their offer even as the deadline for Hicks’ decision was imminent.

Ryan didn’t return messages left on his cell phone Tuesday night.

Forbes earlier this year valued the Rangers at $405 million, 15th among the 30 major league teams. Hicks bought the team for $250 million in 1998, from a group that included former President George W. Bush.

The San Diego Padres were sold for just over $500 million this year and the Cubs were bought in October for $845 million in a deal that also included Wrigley Field and 25 percent of Comcast Sportsnet.

Greenberg owns two minor league baseball teams, and recently sold a third. He previously represented buyers for two NHL teams, Pittsburgh in 1999 and Florida in 2001.

Gilbert is a special adviser for the Chicago White Sox who still runs his insurance company in California. He is a former minor league player who became successful in insurance, writing policies for some entertainers and athletes. When he was a sports agent, his clients included George Brett, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Jose Canseco, Mike Piazza and Curt Schilling.

Crane founded Crane Worldwide Logistics in Houston. He has expressed interest in the past in purchasing the Houston Astros, though Drayton McLane has repeatedly said publicly he has no intentions to sell his team.

Hicks had also worked previously to put together a group of mainly local investors in an effort to maintain controlling ownership of the team.

In a conference call earlier Tuesday, Selig responded to questions about the Rangers by saying that it was time to “move this process along” and that was he hopeful of getting Hicks’ recommendation by the deadline.

“I think we all would agree it needs to be moved along,” Selig said during a conference call.

When Selig was asked if he would like Ryan involved in the Rangers, the commissioner said he didn’t want to get into that but did commend the Hall of Fame pitcher.

“Look, Nolan’s done a terrific job down there. You know, the Rangers have a terrific farm system. They’ve done their work properly,” Selig said. “So let’s just hope it can all work out and we move on and settle all this thing so the franchise really, really can move forward.”

Hicks Sports Group this year defaulted on $525 million in loans tied to the Rangers and the NHL’s Dallas Stars, which Hicks has owned since 1996. Hicks has said that was a deliberate move to force lenders to renegotiate terms of the deals.

In 2007, Hicks combined with former Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr. to buy the English soccer club Liverpool through a different entity.

The NHL and a group of 40 lenders holding debt from Hicks Sports Group will also have to approve the sale.

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