Funds News

U.S. judge postpones sale of Rangers baseball team

* Court says parties should mediate

* Hearing on sale postponed to July 22

* Mediation with lenders will begin on July 16

(Adds details from court filings)

June 25 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge postponed the proposed sale of the bankrupt Texas Rangers, saying the professional baseball team should first negotiate with lenders opposing the deal, court documents show.

A group led by team president and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan was set to pay about $575 million for the Rangers.

“The court understands that additional time for mediation could possibly lead to the proposal of a consensual plan in this case,” Judge Michael Lynn wrote in an order.

Mediation will begin on July 16 and a hearing on confirmation of the sale is scheduled on July 22, the court documents show.

A hearing on the sale of the group was originally scheduled for July 9.

The Rangers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 24 to ease owner Thomas Hicks’ proposed sale of the team to Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg, a Pittsburgh lawyer.

However, Hicks’ secured lenders, led by New York-based distressed debt investor Monarch Alternative Capital LP, oppose it, saying it shortchanges them. [ID:nN04110428]

The lender group opposing the sale also includes JPMorgan & Chase Co JPM.N.

Earlier in June, Andrew Leblanc, a lawyer representing secured lenders, told the bankruptcy court 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. [ID:nN04110428]

The case is In re: Texas Rangers Baseball Partners, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Texas, No. 10-43400. (Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Michael Shields))