Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks has agreed the sale of Texas Rangers baseball franchise to a consortium headed by Chuck Greenberg and current Rangers president Nolan Ryan. Although Hicks will still retain a stake in the franchise he will no longer be on its board.
Hicks Sports Group announced on Saturday night that it had “reached a definitive agreement” to sell the MLB franchise to the Rangers Baseball Express, the Greenberg-Ryan investment group. Ryan ended his playing career at Texas Rangers and was described as a “legendary pitcher” in the announcement.
It has taken some time for the process to reach this stage. Hicks first said he was willing to sell a minority stake in the franchise in March last year, two months later admitting that he would now consider selling a majority stake. There is still some way to go before the sale goes through; Major League Baseball have to approve the deal as do some of the lenders that Hicks Sports Group have used. The statement also says that there is some “completion of financing” to do.
There was a 30-day period of exclusivity for the consortium to come to a deal, but having passed that deadline the negotiations continued and the deal went through. Hicks said: “Together, we have worked exhaustively since last month to attain this agreement. It’s a complex business deal that positions the franchise positively for the future.”
Another of the Hicks family’s investment interests, Ballpark Real Estate, will hand over 153 of the 195 acres of land it controls around the Rangers’ Ballpark stadium and the Dallas Cowboy’s stadium. This is being exchanged for “cash, notes, and an ownership position in the team”.
Greenberg will become Managing Partner and CEO of the new Rangers setup, With Ryan continuing as president. Other major investors in the new setup include billionaire Ray Davis (not of The Kinks) and the Simpson family (of Fort Worth not Springfield). Davis and Bob Simpson will become co-chairmen. Simpson was reportedly made $300m dollars richer last month when his XTO Energy merged with ExxonMobil.
For Hicks there’s a continuing role in the new organisation, but in what is said to be a more ceremonial or honorary role as Chairman Emeritus.
The amount of money involved has not been disclosed but speculation suggests the figure is somewhere between $500m and $570m (£310m and £350m) and enough to cover the Hicks Sports Group’s debts of around $525m. Hicks bought the Rangers for $250m in 1998.
Greenberg praised Hicks in the statement “Nolan and I greatly appreciate Tom Hicks’ willingness to work beyond the deadline to complete the deal and his support for passing the torch from the Hicks family to our group. His actions speak eloquently to his commitment to serve the best interests of Rangers fans and the community.”
Greenberg didn’t use the word ‘custodians’ to refer to the change of ownership but no doubt his words will be closely analysed by Rangers followers: “We are fortunate to be assuming the stewardship of a franchise poised for greatness. The tremendous foundation of talent that has been assembled on both the major and minor league levels, combined with our passionate commitment to achieve excellence in every facet of the organization’s operation, and the pent-up thirst for success we observe from our fans every day, creates the opportunity for the Rangers to become one of the great franchises in baseball.”
Meanwhile Hicks has also sold one of his holiday homes, a three-acre estate in the Aspen area of Colorado. The sale went through for $18.5m, below the original £20m asking price but still a massive return on the $1.03m he paid for it in 1995.
Described as consisting of “a main house and a guest house totalling 11,000 square feet” the properties were sold furnished. Hicks was reported to have said the sale was due to his family taking their vacations elsewhere in recent years. The property is about 100 miles away from the base of his fellow Reds co-owner George Gillett Jnr in Vail, Colorado. There was no love lost between the pair during a prolonged and public battle two years ago over ownership of Liverpool.
Hicks is still the owner of the Dallas Stars NHL side, but Gillett Jnr sold his stake in the Montreal Canadiens late last year. Meanwhile Liverpool’s financial troubles continue, and continue to be shrouded in secrecy.
The transfer budget has seemingly been withdrawn, Rafa Benítez having made a profit on transfers since the turn of last year and the new stadium, despite vague promises, is still to get underway.
A credible offer is believed to have been put to the club’s owners at the end of last season that would solve the problems with funding for the new stadium. This is believed to have been turned down flat by current LFC Managing Director Christian Purslow, with the impression given that he would be able to solve those problems himself.
Six months on – and with the club’s struggles on the field emphasising the financial difficulties they are under – there is still no sign of that funding and the club remains in limbo. Fans are still in the dark about what is really going on at the club behind the scenes. Is the club’s transfer spending being halted by the owners or by Purslow? Why not be honest about it? Where has the money gone, if it’s not gone on servicing the debt?
As both owners seem to be taking steps towards getting everything in order with their US interests, the man hired to sort out their Liverpool interest seems to be making very little progress. Worst of all, after billing himself as a lifelong Red, he doesn’t seem to be telling the supporters the open and honest truth about what is going on at the club.
A year’s worth of pay increases for a few players doesn’t explain why the annual transfer funding has dropped so dramatically. A simple explanation would have perhaps lessened the pressure on the manager. It would have been far better than shadowing him at press conferences, a move that made it look like there was a fear he might reveal something about what was really happening at the club.
Had that proposal for stadium funding been taken up in the close season, how much of a boost would it have been to the club and its supporters to finally see some progress on construction of the one thing that justified the club being sold in the first place?
Liverpool FC was sold so that it could afford a new stadium, a stadium that would bring in extra funds for new signings and help in the battle to get back on top of the league after all these years of missing out. Instead we sit here knowing that we’re now a selling club, hoping for the best with free transfers and wondering how long it will be before one of the big names is sold to help fund some replacements.
Clearly the club’s owners have been busy sorting out those North American interests, trying to take them out of limbo – now it’s time they got back to work on their interest here in England.