In what may be a now or never moment for prospective Astros owner Jim Crane, exactly one week from today the potential vote to approve the $680 million sale of the club from Drayton McLane could take place. The vote was delayed in August to allow time for owners to gain a larger comfort level with Crane on several issues, some surrounding aspects around his business in the wake of the league’s dealings with the bankruptcy case surrounding Frank McCourt and the Dodgers.
But, in recent weeks, a key aspect has been negotiating compensation for moving the Astros to the American League. Crane is seeking as much as $50 million off the sale price saying that later start times for AL West games, impacts to a new regional sports network, and likely changes in how the major league roster is comprised based in competition from the Rangers and Angels factor in. The realignment is being sought by the league to allow for additional Wild Card teams to be added for the 2013 season.
Drayton McLane has been making the case to the owners that there are no other bidders that can come close to the $680 million sale price. That figure would be the second-highest for an MLB club behind only the Cubs sale, which included Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago for $835 million.
It seems highly unlikely that Commissioner Selig will call a vote if he has any trepidation about it passing the muster by at least the required 75 percent of the owners. The last time a vote was held by the owners where it prospective owner was rejected was with Miles Prentice and his attempt at purchasing the Kansas City Royals.
While the character issues may still linger, the negotiations around compensation for moving to the AL West appears to be the key point, now.
Will Crane be approved on the 17th? That seems to still be up for debate. By all accounts negotiations are still taking place. If history is any indicator, MLB sent out a press release the Monday before the Owners Meetings in August to inform that the delay to approve Crane was taking place. It seems doubtful that MLB would outright say Crane is wholly rejected. Once again, if there are concerns – what ever those are – with Crane, it will be framed as a “delay”.
The exclusive agreement between Drayton McLane and Crane for the purchase expires on Nov. 30, less than 2 weeks after the scheduled date for a possible approval would take place. By December it seems clear that one way or another, we’ll know if the 2013 season for the Astros will be piloted by Crane or McLane.
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).
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