Three groups eyeing Texas Rangers bid: sources

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Potential buyers of the Texas Rangers baseball team include a freight-forwarding executive and a minor league baseball team owner who helped hockey star Mario Lemieux purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, sources familiar with the sales process told Reuters.

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Derek Holland pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Arlington, Texas September 13, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Stone

The three potential buyers are Jim Crane, a Houston businessman who runs his own freight-forwarding company; Chuck Greenberg, a minor league baseball team owner and sports attorney who helped negotiate the Penguins deal in 1999; and Dennis Gilbert, whose sports agency once represented baseball home run king Barry Bonds, according to three sources familiar with the sales process.

Gilbert, a special assistant to the owner of the Chicago White Sox, confirmed through the baseball team that he was bidding for the Rangers but declined further comment. Crane could not be reached and Greenberg declined to comment.

Texas billionaire and sports tycoon Tom Hicks is selling the team to satisfy creditors who declared his sports group in default. Hicks Sports Group (HSG) also owns the Dallas Stars hockey team. Hicks could not be reached and a team spokesman declined to comment.

The Rangers are expected to draw bids of around $550 million, sports bankers and baseball officials have said.

“Identifying a winner should occur before year end,” said one of the sources, all of whom asked not to be identified.

The three groups are doing their due diligence, studying the team’s financial data, sources said.

Another group that had eyed a bid for the Rangers but dropped out was led by Harvey Schiller, the president of the International Baseball Federation and CEO of Global Options Group, a security investigation company, a source said.

After building an insurance business, Gilbert became a top agent in baseball before retiring in January 1999. In addition to Bonds, his firm represented such star players as George Brett, Mike Piazza and Jose Canseco.

Crane, the former CEO of freight-forwarding company EGL Inc, re-entered that industry in August 2008 with the formation of Crane Worldwide Logistics. He also bid for the Chicago Cubs, which bankrupt media company Tribune Co has agreed to sell for $845 million.

Crane was a star pitcher for the University of Central Missouri in the 1970s. In a 1974 college World Series game in what is now Division II, he struck out 18 batters, including 11 consecutive strikeouts, in a 2-0 win.

Greenberg, 48, owns minor league baseball teams in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and State College, Pennsylvania, and sold another team in Altoona, Pennsylvania, last December. He owns Greenberg Sports Group, a sports consulting firm.

In April, 40 creditors -- banks and institutional investors -- declared HSG in default on $525 million of loans after Hicks withheld a quarterly interest payment.

Hicks also owns half of the English Premier League’s Liverpool Football Club, which is held separately from HSG.

Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and Matthew Lewis