MLB owners not ready to vote on Astros sale
Statement says more time needed before transfer to Crane group
HOUSTON -- Astros owner Drayton McLane remains confident the sale of the team to a group led by Houston businessman Jim Crane will be approved by his fellow owners, despite the announcement Monday by Major League Baseball that the ownership vote had been postponed.
McLane announced in May he had reached an agreement to sell the team to Crane's group, pending approval of baseball's other owners. McLane told reporters gathered at Minute Maid Park on Monday he was informed by Commissioner Bud Selig that the owners were expected to vote on the issue via conference call in no more than two weeks.
McLane said the vote originally was on the agenda at the owners' meetings Wednesday and Thursday in Cooperstown, N.Y.
In its statement, MLB said it needs more time to complete its homework on the $680 million transaction.
"The standard due diligence that must be completed before any transaction of this magnitude can close remains ongoing," the statement read. "Because that procedure is continuing, it is not expected that the proposed sale of the Astros will go to the approval process at this week's owners meetings. Major League Baseball will continue to work as expeditiously as possible to complete the process."
Crane has a sizable group of investors who also are subject to scrutiny from MLB before the sale can be finalized. McLane said Crane was "investigated very thoroughly" by MLB when he nearly bought the Astros in 2008, and when he pursued the Rangers last year.
"He has a cross-section of really, really successful people throughout Houston and in Texas," McLane said. "The financing would be one of the best financed teams in all of baseball. The financing is good, and I think the investigation of the individuals -- they are some of the most outstanding people in Houston. And I see no issues whatsoever."
McLane said the deal already would have been completed had MLB not had to spend a great amount of its time dealing extensively with the Dodgers, who are in bankruptcy. He said the complaints filed against one of Crane's companies by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1997 aren't an issue.
"That's not an issue that's involved at all," he said.
Crane has been unavailable for comment, but McLane said the prospective owner told him that while he was disappointed, he understood the process.
"He was anxious," McLane said. "We had hoped to get this thing finished a week from today, but most likely it will get done in two weeks."
Crane has been kept in the loop about the Astros' recent moves, which included last month's trades of outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn -- the team's best two offensive players -- in exchange for prospects and outfielder Jordan Schafer.
"We certainly were the owners and made the decisions, but we talked to Jim Crane and his group," McLane said.
Crane's group also will take ownership of the Astros' stake in a regional sports network, in which the team has partnered with the NBA's Houston Rockets and Comcast. It will begin airing Astros games in 2013 and Rockets games, beginning with the 2012 preseason.
Crane, 57, is the chairman and founder of Houston-based Crane Worldwide Logistics and the former chairman, CEO and majority shareholder in Eagle Global Logistics (EGL), which provides heavyweight freight transportation and related logistics services.
A native of St. Louis, he received a bachelor of science degree in industrial safety from the University of Central Missouri, where he was a standout baseball pitcher for the Division II school from 1973-76.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.