a 2009 Texas Rangers: The Texas Rangers are on the verge of new ownership
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ANOTHER NEW OWNER?


The Texas Rangers may soon be joining the Cubs and Padres as teams undergoing major ownership changes. As reported last month on this site, the Hicks Sports Group defaulted on a note secured by the Rangers and the NHL Dallas Stars. The rhetoric from Hicks at the time was that it was merely a negotiating ploy to extract more favorable loan terms, but rumors to the contrary arose at the time, apparently with some truth to them.

The first indication of the Rangers’ financial problems came last year. He had announced a major development west of the ballpark, between Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. It was said to be something akin to Wrigleyville in Chicago. However, last summer the project was cancelled, ostensibly because financing could not be secured. Since that time rumors have circulated that vendors, such as the architects involved in the planning of the development have not been paid.

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Later, Hicks announced he was looking for a capital infusion from the sale of a minority interest in the team. He was adamant at the time that he intended to retain managerial control. It never sounded logical that a major investor would toss $200 million or so to Hicks, who has mismanaged the team so badly. Attendance is down more than 1,000,000 fans per year since he took charge of the team in 1998. The bad product he’s put on the field with just one winning season in the last nine years has been a major contributor to the attendance decline, but the marketing department he installed has also made a major contribution to chasing away customers. He says now he has received significant interest in buying a minority interest, but that’s bunk! If he had on any basis that makes sense, the deal would at least be underway, if not closed.

Instead, Hicks admitted Thursday that he is now open to selling a stake in the team large enough for the new owner to be the majority partner and gain managerial control over the team’s operations. It’s a clear admission that the Rangers’ financial problems are much more severe than fans have been led to believe. There was immediate media speculation that Nolan Ryan could be heading up a purchasing group. Ryan owns minor league teams in Round Rock and Corpus Christi, Texas backed by Don Sanders, a Houstonian that has been Ryan’s long time business partner. There is no confirmation that Ryan might be interested.

 


The news comes at a time when the team finally seems to be turning their fortunes on the field around. Hicks named Ryan President before the 2008 season. Bringing in the popular Ryan, perhaps the most highly regarded Ranger in the history of the team, was thought to be largely a PR move to improve the image of the team with area fans. Surprisingly, Ryan has been an active hands-on president. The turnaround in the team’s fortunes this season can be directly attributed to Ryan and the moves he has made on and off the field.

From that standpoint, the news about Hicks’ and the team’s financial problems is bad news for fans. With Hicks’ image in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, this news would have been welcomed a year ago. However, with the change in fortunes on the field, a change in ownership could upset the apple cart. Forbes Magazine valued the Rangers at $405 million. A new owner investing more than half that number and gaining managerial control of the team will undoubtedly make changes to the operation. They could be positive; but they may not. At this point the status quo doesn’t look bad.

 

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Hicks said the ownership change could occur by the end of 2009, perhaps even before the end of this baseball season, though it should be noted that a transfer of a majority interest in the team would require approval by the other 29 MLB owners. He’s obviously anxious to make a deal. Ranger fans can only hope that the positive momentum on the field will continue with new ownership.

By: Richard W. Humphrey
MLBcenter.com Texas Rangers Correspondent


> View all of the 2009 MLB team previews from Pro Baseball Fans

 

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