UPDATE: Although he said his preference was to approve a "substantially enhanced" bid that would enable Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and Texas Rangers President Nolan Ryan to purchase the baseball team from beleaguered owner Tom Hicks, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Lynn ruled today the auction will go forward on Wednesday as scheduled.
Lynn said his ruling ultimately was based on satisfying the lenders "because it is their money," and after being assured by lawyers for Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Houston businessman Jim Crane that their clients have had enough time to conduct due diligence and arrange financing for a bid.
The attorneys said their clients are ready, either separately or in tandem, to bid for the Rangers on Wednesday.
Cuban was unsuccessful in trying to buy the Chicago Cubs three years ago. And according to earlier reports, Crane might have difficulty being confirmed by MLB owners after his failed attempts to purchase the Cubs and Houston Astros. Both, however, have been approved to bid for the Rangers.
Lenders, who are owed $525 million by Hicks Sports Group, have objected to the Wednesday auction date, arguing it does not give bidders enough time. But Lynn said the auction needs to proceed because the Greenberg-Ryan will lose their financing on Aug. 12, "and I am not going to sink their bid."
Here's the latest in the continuing, sometimes (often?) confusing saga of the Rangers' bankruptcy story:
William K. Snyder, the chief restructuring officer appointed by the court to try to work things out among the parties, has negotiated a "substantially enhanced" bid deal with Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg, who is working with current Rangers President Nolan Ryan to buy the team from beleaguered owner Tom Hicks.
The news was announced at a hearing Friday in federal bankruptcy court in Fort Worth.
All side deals -- which have been a sticking point for big lenders who questioned the fairness of the Greenberg-Ryan bid -- have been stripped out.
That apparently means that Hicks won't receive the $70 million he had negotiated to receive from Greenberg-Ryan for parking lots and a centerfield office building at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
If Judge Michael Lynn approves the new deal, which was negotiated without the knowledge of the other potential bidders, the auction scheduled for next Wednesday could be postponed or called off.
Greenberg's attorney, Tom Lauria, said the auction could simply be postponed for two weeks.It's not yet clear if this means the end of the torture for Rangers fans. The hearing was continuing Friday morning.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Houston's Jim Crane, two of the other possible bidders, aren't happy with the latest development. Nor are lenders at Monarch Alternative Capital, a New York-based private investment firm that specializes in lending to distressed firms.
Cuban's attorney, Clifton Jessup, attacked the new deal, saying that if the auction is held, Cuban would bid aggressively and possibly even beat the new terms. Crane's attorney said he has found new investors and is interested in making a bid, either alone or jointly with Cuban.
Jessup described the secret negotiations as an "October surprise" and said that even if Lynn doesn't approve the new deal, it will make an auction more difficult and "chill the bidding."
He said Cuban has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars doing his due diligence on the organization in anticipation of joining the bidding.
Snyder said he and Greenberg negotiated from Tuesday night to Thursday morning before striking a deal. He called the original deal, in which Hicks and Major League Baseball accepted the Greenberg-Ryan bid complete with the Hicks side deals, "a stinky process."
He said all the side deals had been removed without exception.
The terms of the new agreement are confidential and details were vague, but the cash amount of the new bid is apparently at least $40 million higher than the previous Greenberg-Ryan offer, which would bring the cash price close to $350 million.
The lenders say they are owed $525 million by Hicks' parent company, Hicks Sports Group, and they pushed to reopen the bidding process after the team declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and sent the matter into court.
When Greenberg-Ryan agreed to buy the Rangers in January, they gave Hicks a side deal worth about $70 million for parking lots, a centerfield office building and other assets around Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Hicks has said that the real estate holdings are separate from the team and weren't used as collateral on his sports loans.
-- Barry Shlachter