Rangers auction to proceed

Updated: July 31, 2010, 2:57 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

FORT WORTH, Texas -- A bankruptcy judge Friday rejected a last-minute higher bid on the Texas Rangers from Major League Baseball's preferred buyer, a deal that would have canceled next week's auction.

Since U.S. Bankruptcy Judge D. Michael Lynn said Wednesday's auction will proceed as planned, the higher bid from a group led by Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg is now off the table. That means the starting price at the auction will still be $306.7 million, which is the cash portion of Greenberg-Ryan's $520 million bid for the team. The group's total offer includes an additional $55 million or so for parking lots.

The court-appointed restructuring officer, William Snyder, had asked the judge to forgo an auction. He said the Greenberg-Ryan group had substantially increased its offer and removed "stinky" side deals considered favorable to team owner Tom Hicks.

The new bid was filed under seal, but an attorney for the team, Ronit Berkovich, indicated in court that it was $40 million higher.

Lynn said Friday that he did not believe creditors' claims that Snyder was trying to make "an end run" to sell the team to Greenberg-Ryan's group, which was chosen as the buyer after the team's original bidding process last year.

Creditors who have blocked that deal, saying the group's bid was not the highest, urged the judge Friday to proceed with the auction.

Lynn made his decision after lawyers for Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Houston businessman Jim Crane said their clients were preparing to bid at the auction.

Cuban is reviewing documents, and the auction date and bidding procedures are not a problem for him, said his lawyer, Clifton Jessup.

According the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a source said Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. might make a bid to ensure continued rights for its Fox Sports unit.

Now, the initial Greenberg-Ryan bid -- which includes legal costs and damages if Hicks is sued after the sale, an office building lease and $9 million in adviser fees -- will be submitted at the auction.

The Greenberg-Ryan group has been under fire from creditors because those items were transferred to the Rangers from Hicks' other companies that are not part of the bankruptcy case. But the Greenberg-Ryan group may choose to sweeten its bid during the auction by removing those items, which won't be in other parties' bids.

The bid also includes the Rangers Ballpark lease, which JP Morgan Chase, a creditor, is trying to sever from the team's sale. The judge will not decide that issue until next year.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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