Nolan Ryan testifies in bankruptcy court, lobbies for Aug 4 auction of Texas Rangers

By Angela K. Brown, AP
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nolan Ryan lobbies for auction of Texas Rangers

FORT WORTH, Texas — Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan called on a federal bankruptcy judge Wednesday to auction off the Texas Rangers on Aug. 4 as planned, saying a delay could hurt the team and maybe even cost them slugger Josh Hamilton.

Ryan testified in his capacity as the team’s president, though he and Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg have the endorsement of Major League Baseball to buy the Rangers and would love to close the deal soon. The sale has been anything but smooth and is now part of a contentious bankruptcy proceeding.

Creditors and even the court-appointed restructuring officer want the auction delayed so other bidders can line up financing.

The Greenberg-Ryan group, which has bid about $575 million, opposes a delay because its financing guarantee is set to expire Aug. 12.

Ryan also said the auction should be held as planned to avoid distractions as the Rangers make a run for the American League West title and their first postseason berth since 1999. He also worried about having financing in order for next season and told the judge he was specifically worried about keeping Hamilton, whose .357 batting average through Tuesday leads the major leagues.

“I don’t know that I want to be there (if) Josh Hamilton doesn’t come back next year,” Ryan said.

Hamilton signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Rangers in January and could command a much higher salary next year. Ryan put the potential range at $8 million to $10 million.

The Rangers president also said recent deals to land ace pitcher Cliff Lee and catcher Bengie Molina included cash, further limiting what the team can do.

Under cross-examination from a creditors’ attorney, Andrew Leblanc, Ryan acknowledged that the team has received loans from Major League Baseball to stay afloat. The bankruptcy court earlier approved a $21.5 million MLB loan on top of $18.45 million in loans since last year.

Greenberg was expected to testify later Wednesday.

The Rangers wanted to sell the team to Greenberg-Ryan’s group and repay creditors $75 million when it filed for bankruptcy in May. Since then, angry creditors have complained that the Greenberg-Ryan bid wasn’t the highest and squabbles and even lawsuits have come over everything from document access to the bidding procedures.

At least four other bidders have emerged: Houston businessman Jim Crane and Dallas investor Jeff Beck, both cleared by MLB to submit bids, and two unidentified parties. There has been speculation that Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire Mark Cuban is one of them, though he has said only that he is “interested.”

The hearing was expected to continue Thursday with more witnesses, including Rangers manager Ron Washington.

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