A-Rod joins Rangers creditors group

By Jonathan Stempel and Ben Klayman

NEW YORK/DETROIT (Reuters) - Star third baseman Alex Rodriguez, owed $24.9 million by the Texas Rangers, was appointed to a committee representing unsecured creditors in the baseball team's bankruptcy case.

Rodriguez, widely known by the nickname A-Rod, holds the largest unsecured claim against his former team, for whom he played from 2001 to 2003. The three-time American League most valuable player now plays for the New York Yankees.

U.S. trustee William Neary revealed the appointment of Rodriguez and two others to the creditors committee in a late Thursday filing in Fort Worth, Texas, bankruptcy court.

Joseph Wielebinski, a lawyer for Rodriguez, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Rangers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 24, to ease owner Thomas Hicks' proposed $575 million sale of the team to a group led by team president and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg, a Pittsburgh lawyer.

Major League Baseball supports the sale, which requires bankruptcy court approval. Hicks' secured lenders, led by New York-based distressed debt investor Monarch Alternative Capital LP, oppose it, saying it shortchanges them.

Rodriguez, 34, signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Rangers in 2000, becoming the sport's highest-paid player. The team traded him to the Yankees in 2004, but agreed to pay an estimated $67 million of the $179 million still owed.

In Chapter 11 cases, the U.S. trustee appoints a committee to represent unsecured creditors. It typically consists of several of the largest creditors who are willing to serve.

The inclusion of Rodriguez appears "somewhat odd in that even though he is largest unsecured creditor, there is no issue about his being paid," said a Major League Baseball official who requested anonymity, citing the Rangers' pending sale.

Andrew Leblanc, a lawyer representing secured lenders, told the bankruptcy court this week a rival bidder contacted that group to show a readiness to bid at auction for the Rangers.

The bidder was not identified. Houston businessman Jim Crane had outbid the group led by Ryan and Greenberg for the Rangers, according to people familiar with the bid, who declined to be named because it had not been made public.

George Postolos, who has represented Crane, declined on Friday to say whether Crane is involved in the rival bid.

Rodriguez in 2007 opted out of the $252 million contract. He later resigned with the Yankees, and is now in the third year of a 10-year, $275 million contract.

The other people named to the creditors committee are Harold Thompson, vice president of Dallas-based architecture firm RTKL Associates Inc, and Essey Alley, president of Little Rock, Arkansas-based Vratsinas Construction Co.

Among other players with large unsecured claims are Baltimore Orioles pitcher Kevin Millwood, owed $12.9 million, and Rangers third baseman Michael Young, owed $3.9 million.

The case is In re: Texas Rangers Baseball Partners, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Texas, No. 10-43400.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Ben Klayman; Additional reporting by Emily Chasan; Editing by John Wallace and Steve Orlofsky)