MINNEAPOLIS – Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg have no more courtrooms to enter, no more briefs to file, no more bidding wars to win.
At long last, their pursuit of the Texas Rangers is over, and both are breathing big sighs of relief.
Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved the sale of the Rangers to an investment group led by Ryan and Greenberg on Thursday, marking the end of a months-long struggle to take control of the club. Ryan will remain team president while Greenberg becomes the managing partner and CEO of a group that also includes pipeline billionaire Ray Davis and XTO Energy founder Bob Simpson.
"It's hard to comprehend that that is behind us because it dominated our lives so much, in that there were so many twists and turns during the process," said Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher and Texas icon.
The group initially agreed to buy the team from Tom Hicks in January. But a messy bankruptcy case ensued and Ryan and Greenberg, a sports attorney from Pittsburgh, ultimately had to win a bidding war with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to secure the franchise.
Ryan and Greenberg won with a bid valued at $590 million.
"There were a lot of frustrations, a lot of setbacks, quite a few moments where we thought we had it only to feel it slip away again," Greenberg said. "But there was never a moment where I thought this wasn't going to happen.
"There were a lot of moments where it was hard to imagine it being completed, but I'm a pretty competitive guy. I don't have to tell you what a competitive person Nolan is. Bob Simpson, Ray Davis, our whole ownership group, we like to win."
Commissioner Bud Selig said the Greenberg-Ryan group had "demonstrated an unwavering commitment" to the Rangers through the long ordeal.
"It really had a great conclusion," Selig said. "It had a lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of travail ... Given where we were two weeks ago and where we are today, it's a happy day for me and for everybody else."
Now the focus can shift to the diamond, where it belongs.
The surprising Rangers have a 7½ game lead over the Angels in the American League West, the largest in any division in the majors. They have an MVP candidate in Josh Hamilton, a bona fide ace in Cliff Lee and now, finally, some stability in the front office as they chase their first postseason appearance since 1999.
With MLB's blessing, the team's assets were sold to the Greenberg-Ryan group, and the Rangers will officially emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
"The biggest thing is we kept it in the family," Hamilton said. "Nolan Ryan is pretty much the face of baseball in Texas period, so when you think about that, you want to have him around your team. He's done a great job here over the last couple of years with this team.
"Chuck Greenberg is just a down-to-earth humble man who wants to win, so the combination of the two is a good fit."
The Rangers' plan and sale to the Greenberg-Ryan group had been in jeopardy since shortly after the team's bankruptcy filing in May. Angry creditors successfully argued to reopen the bidding although the Greenberg-Ryan group was chosen as the team's owner in January after the original sale process.
Had the plan had been rejected, the team would have remained in bankruptcy court and the Greenberg-Ryan group — long endorsed by Major League Baseball — would have lost its chance to purchase the team, since its funding guarantee expired Thursday.
But after nearly three months of arguing attorneys, surprise lawsuits and even two-last minute attempts by Greenberg-Ryan to stop the auction, the group ended up with a winning bid that was about $100 million more than its opening offer.
"It was a long and difficult and frequently frustrating process, but we never wavered for a moment in our belief that it was worth every minute of it," Greenberg said. "We're so pleased right now. We're looking forward to a great future with our fans and we think that great days are ahead."
Rangers attorneys say all disputes with lenders and others have been resolved, including an objection filed by Alex Rodriguez over concerns that he and other former players may not get the millions that the Rangers owe them. The Greenberg-Ryan group's winning bid includes paying more than $200 million to unsecured creditors — including A-Rod, who is owed $24.9 million in deferred compensation six years after his trade to the New York Yankees.
Creditors will receive $75 million from the team in the bankruptcy plan, but the judge has said they can sue other entities of Hicks Sports Group, which defaulted on about $525 million in loans last year. Hicks is co-owner of the Liverpool football club, which is for sale, but the London sports team is not part of Hicks Sports Group and is safe from creditors in the Rangers' bankruptcy case.
"Obviously, this is a bittersweet moment for our family because these past twelve years with the Texas Rangers have produced a remarkable experience for all of us," Hicks said in a statement. "I sincerely think the two major turning points for this franchise involved naming Jon Daniels general manager and Nolan Ryan becoming club president."
Hicks will not be part of the new organization.
"It's just awesome that the franchise is headed in the right direction," outfielder David Murphy said. "We've got an ownership group that really cares about us. ... This is a group that really seems like they really care and they're going to do whatever it takes to make this team an annual winner."
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.