Unless there's a dramtic change, Jim
Crane will be the next owner of the
The Houston Astros will be getting a new owner in Jim Crane. No, it’s not been made official. No, the vote hasn’t yet occurred, and as with anything in MLB, it could change at the last minute. But, over the last two weeks, matters have moved, and with it, expect Crane’s approval.
If you’re asking, “What changed?” you might as well be asking how an owner thinks; it’s not one thing.
But, here’s what did happened that delayed the initial vote.
It was not the first story on Crane, but something in the report on him in June of this year on Forbes, coupled with the mess that is the current state of the Dodgers under Frank McCourt, got some of the owners rethinking approving him without more information. It wasn’t just an EEOC investigation into discrimination charges against one of Crane’s companies. It’s possible it was the war-profiteering that occurred after that, in conjunction with other matters.
Repeatedly we’ve been told, it wasn’t one thing with Crane. It was slowing up and asking for more information on his dealings. It was getting a “comfort level” with approving Crane.
There’s never been anyone willing to say on or off-record which owners weren’t willing to vote to approve Crane in August. Speculating, it’s possible the Rangers might not have been keen to Crane. After all, Crane was part of a quickly cobbled together partnership with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban that had them in the auction process for the Rangers that eventually saw a group headed by Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg winning. The auction process drove the sale price up higher than expected, which didn’t exactly sit well with the new Rangers ownership group. The odd thing is, that sale likely played into how much Crane’s exceptionally large group is now paying for the Astros.
All that aside, at least 7 owners must have had questions about Crane as the move to approve ownership transfer requires 75 percent of the owners agreeing. Certainly, Drayton McLane is for it, so 75% of 29… you do the math.
Two weeks ago, Crane met with Commissioner Selig. What was discussed hasn’t been said in detail, but what is known is this: Bud wanted to hear directly what Crane’s story was on the character issues surrounding his company. It should be noted, he was never directly linked to the war-profiteering aspect – something that was done by regional execs in the Middle East – but rather, it occurred on his watch.
There’s also the move of the Astros to the American League West, something that has been said to be a lynch pin in Crane’s approval. To be clear, that is important, but the serious discussions about moving the Astos to the AL occurred as part of the August owners meetings after the vote on Crane had been delayed. As a source close to the situation has said repeatedly, “It’s a factor with Crane, but not number one.”
So, owners weren’t comfortable with Crane, sought more information, and now seem ready to vote for his approval during the Nov 15-16 meetings in Milwaukee.
The timing makes sense, as well.
There will no doubt be articles talking about Crane’s controversial elements that occurred at his companies. If you’re going to go there, you do so during the off-season. While the baseball media will have something to say, most fans will be talking about football and basketball (college, at least, and possibly NBA if the labor dispute is resolved). There will be less media churn than if Crane had been approved in August in advance of the postseason.
What will be interesting is knowing what Crane said to the Executive Board that has been created as part of the exceptionally large investor pool for the purchase. Crane is covering about 20% of the deal, while dozens of others make up the difference. As we reported yesterday, Crane and a lawyer flew to meet with league officials last week, and it’s likely that while he’s been told the votes are now there to approve, seeking compensation for moving to the AL could have been part of that meeting.
So, mark it down. Crane will get approved. It’s not in stone (see what happened to Miles Prentice at the 11th hour when he tried to purchase the Royals), but most everything points to his winning the day. Not since the league struggled to get an owners for the Los Angeles Dodgers have the owners hand wrung so much. That was a different situation, with different personalities, and certainly, different financing. But, stopping a $680 million deal, scuttling Crane’s group, and starting back over would not be good for the Astros in 2012 (and give Drayton McLane even more aggravation). After November, Crane gets the focus back to turning the Astros around on the field, and off the front office discussions that have swirled for months.
OTHER NEWS ACROSS THE BUSINESS OF SPORTS NETWORK:
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
Follow Maury Brown on Twitter
Follow The Biz of Baseball on Twitter
Follow the Business of Sports Network on Facebook