MLB warns of interference from Hicks

Updated: April 22, 2010, 3:27 PM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

BOSTON -- Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks expressed concern over whether a deal would get done between Hicks Sports Group, its 40 lenders and Rangers Baseball Express, headed by Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and club president Nolan Ryan.

Major League Baseball insisted that it's in control of the sale process and is working toward a resolution.

"We've received information that as things presently stand, it won't be approved," Hicks said Wednesday as he watched batting practice prior to the Rangers' game with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Hicks said Monarch Alternative Capital, which has the majority of the first lien of HSG's debt, has not agreed to the sale price.

"There's an impasse," Hicks said. "The lender thinks the group led by Chuck may not be the highest bidder and they want to learn more about their options. That's something that's got to be worked out by baseball, the Greenberg group and the lenders. I hope it gets worked out soon. It needs to be worked out soon."

Hicks' comments prompted a reaction from Major League Baseball, which has made clear its preference for the Greenberg group and that it wants a resolution soon.

"Major League Baseball is currently in control of the sale process and will use all efforts to achieve a closing with the chosen bidder. Any deviation from or interference with the agreed upon sale process by Mr. Hicks or any other party, or any actions in violation of MLB rules or directives will be dealt with appropriately by the Commissioner," the statement said.

Greenberg declined to comment. Ryan said Wednesday that the matter is in the hands of Major League Baseball.

"I guess it comes down to the commissioner making a decision now, and I'm not informed enough to know what all his options are," Ryan said. "The assurance I have is that the deal will go through; we just have to work through this. I don't have an uneasy feeling that it's not going to happen; it's just been delayed longer than anyone thought it would be."

The lenders could try to see whether other bidders, such as Houston businessman Jim Crane, would become involved again at a higher price. But as was the case when the process started last year, any deal must also be approved by 75 percent of Major League Baseball owners.

"We've gone since January on this. We hoped to have it closed on or about Opening Day, and we're disappointed it's not closed yet," Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, told The Associated Press on Tuesday before an All-Star Game news conference. "Tom Hicks and the buyer are trying to get the transaction completed. The commissioner has had considerable contact with the parties, and we're working closely. We understood that because of the Hicks Sports Group debt -- the parent company and not the team -- that there were issues with regard to the parent company lenders.

"We've met with them, as well, and we're trying to work through that. We think the purchase agreement for the consideration being paid for the Rangers represents a fair purchase price, and we're anxious to see the deal closed as written. But I'm not going to predict."

Hicks said he does not want to see the team go into bankruptcy, should no buyer that can gain approval from MLB and HSG's lenders be found.

"That's one of the tools the lenders have at their disposal," Hicks said. "We don't want it. If it did happen, it wouldn't affect the team, but it would affect the procedures of settling the dispute with the lenders."

Hicks said that Ryan would have the option to stay in his current role no matter what happens.

"For the Rangers, it's important to have the stability we get from Nolan," Hicks said. "Any group that would compete with this group organized by Chuck has assured me and others that Nolan would have that same role in their group. I think that stability will be there. We have to let it play out."

Hicks agreed in late January to sell the club to Greenberg, completing five weeks of exclusive negotiations. The deal was subject to approval by MLB and HSG's lenders.

"This will be resolved one way or the other," Hicks said. "It's just got to be worked out."

HSG was forced to put the Rangers up for sale after defaulting early last year on $525 million in loans. Since then, Hicks has also put the Dallas Stars up for sale and is in the early stages of identifying potential investors to get that done. He said Wednesday that there's no timetable to get the team sold and that he doesn't necessarily have to get the Rangers sold first.

Hicks and co-owner George Gillett are putting Liverpool Football Club for sale. That club is not owned by HSG.

Hicks said the transaction of real estate around Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to Rangers Baseball Express is a separate deal and is not part of the current dispute involving the lenders.

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag. Jim Reeves contributed to this report.

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