Texas Rangers sale to Ryan group wins owners' OK

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The sale of the Texas Rangers baseball team to a group including Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan on Thursday won unanimous approval of Major League Baseball's owners.

The approval is the final step of a months-long battle for the team. It followed a marathon auction that ended early last Thursday morning when Rangers Baseball Express, a group led by Ryan and Pittsburgh lawyer Chuck Greenberg, said they would buy the Rangers in a $593 million transaction.

Ryan, who is also the Rangers' president, and Greenberg won a bidding war with a group led by Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team.

Among the other members of the winning group are Ray Davis, a Dallas billionaire and former co-CEO of Energy Transfer Partners LP, and Bob Simpson, who was chairman of XTO Energy Inc, which Exxon Mobil Corp bought this year.

"I am confident that Chuck, Nolan and the entire ownership group will serve as dedicated stewards of the club by building a long-term, stable franchise," baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.

A sale became necessary came after lenders to former owner Thomas Hicks, the private equity executive, declared a default in April 2009 on $525 million of loans.

The Rangers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on May 24, the same day the Ryan group agreed to pay $575 million for the team. Many creditors objected, leading to the auction.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stacey Jernigan on August 5 approved the final sale, which included $385 million of cash and the assumption of $208 million of liabilities.

The Rangers are the second team to be sold through the bankruptcy process in the last year.

Newspaper publisher Tribune Co, which remains in bankruptcy, last October sold the Chicago Cubs for $845 million to the family of Tom Ricketts, whose father founded the brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel. Editing by Robert MacMillan)