I flirted with a lot of snazzy headlines for this post, but decided, given baseball's questionable popularity, to stick with something straightforward.
For those unaware, the Texas Rangers got a new ownership group in the last 24 hours, headed by former Ranger (and Astro and Angel and Met) great, Nolan Ryan, along with an assortment of less well known money men and lawyers who are putting up the vast bulk of the money so Ryan can be the face of the franchise. Ryan's competition was Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner and all around entertaining fellow. Thus ends the sorry saga of Tom Hicks, who did a rise and fall routine that would have made Ken Lay blush. Of him, we shall speak no more.
The Rangers, prior to the sale were so broke they were in a receivership of sorts to MLB, who had loaned them money to cover operating expenses. The team was set to be sold in late December 2009 in an exclusive deal with Ryan, the Rangers creditors flipped out in fear they were being screwed and eventually forced the team into bankruptcy to get a better accounting of the sale. Granted, that's a pretty gross overview of the saga.
Cuban flirted with purchasing the Rangers for a while, including possibly with Ryan's group, but it never came together right, until businessman Bob Crane got involved, and they got in on the court ordered auction, eventually losing. I'll leave the legal meaning of all this shit to the various lawyers on the site because I had to spend a whole day with a bunch of lawyers who oversea chemical regulations last week prior to vacation and I'm still nursing psychic bruises from the encounter.
The team will sell for a little under $600 million dollars and this great blog by Mark Cuban gives some nice insight into how this type of business deal get's put together and why his effort failed.
The interesting take away from this event was MLB's rather quiet but not unnoticed grumbling about a potential Cuban ownership group. Many, many moons ago, Major League Baseball spent the better part of two decades dealing with Charlie Finley, the legendary owner of the A's, who enraged virtually everyone who encountered him: players, the entire city of Kansas City, fans, fellow owners, and particularly Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Finley put together one of baseball great dynasty's, the 70's A's and came up with more gimics than P.T. Barnum, but he also eventually drove the A's into a ditch and was forced to sell the team as part of a messy divorce.
Never forgetting Finley (and Marge Schott and George Steinbrenner), I believe the owners were nervous about taking on Cuban as a fellow member of the club. Which is silly, as Cuban is a savvy businessman and well liked by players and fans. Charlie Finley might have been a superb showman, but he had questionable business sense as a team owner, and players and fans despised him. I think the Ryan group will do fine as owners, and they are certainly more buttoned down than Mark Cuban, but I would have loved to see Mark Cuban speak out on the many injustices and problems facing baseball right now.