“I have a commitment from Nolan Ryan and Roger Staubach that they would invest in my group. It would create an environment of long-term stability for the Texas Rangers and it would enable us to have continuity in the plan we set out five years ago.”
Hicks, in briefing the local media on the state of a possible sale of the franchise, said he is still expecting proposals from three groups by Friday. Those groups are headed by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg, Houston businessman Jim Crane and former sports agent Dennis Gilbert, who is now a special assistant with the White Sox.
Hicks said a fourth group has also emerged, although he declined to identify who was heading it. Hicks’ group would be the fifth possibility.
Hicks said he would take all proposals seriously and study them closely to see which one is best for the Rangers. Hicks could retain some interest in the club regardless of who buys the team. He has not yet seen the proposals. Ryan has also talked with Greenberg about joining his group.
“This is a process,” Hicks said. “I’ve committed to baseball and I’ve committed to other people to give them a chance to put their best foot forward. People have put a lot of work into this and I want to see what their proposals are.”
Hicks will decide which proposal is best for the Rangers. But ultimately any change in ownership will have to be approved by the other 29 Major League clubs as well as the National Hockey League and the 40 lenders who hold the debt on Hicks Sports Group.
All three entities have to be satisfied that the Rangers new ownership arrangement will address the debt situation. The NHL is involved because Hicks Sports Group (HSG) also owns the Dallas Stars.
“It has never been about me selling the Rangers,” Hicks said. “It’s how does HSG monetize the Rangers in a way to pay down or eliminate HSG debt.
“There hasn’t been a week that’s gone by in the last year that I haven’t been working on this. These are tough times. The whole world has too much debt. Companies are in the process of de-leveraging globally and that’s what we’re doing.”
Hicks said that if he gets involved with one of the outside groups, it will be on the condition that Ryan has the opportunity to be involved as well.
“Nolan plays a very important role in our baseball club,” Hicks said. “He loves it, he has the energy and passion and he has a desire to win.”
Staubach at one time had a small, limited interest in the previous ownership group headed by former President George W. Bush, Rusty Rose and Tom Schieffer.
“Roger loves baseball,” Hicks said. “He has great ideas, he knows how to promote the community and I understand he hit .420 as a sophomore in college. Maybe he can give us some tips in Spring Training.”
Hicks said Bush is not going to be involved. He added that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (a good friend of his) and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban are also not involved. But there has been significant interest from other members of the community.
“Local ownership is an important aspect of the group I’m putting together,” Hicks said. “We want to build support for the Texas Rangers in our market. Our plan is five years old and it is starting to be appreciated by the fans. We still have miles to go but the more local ownership and involvement, the better for the Texas Rangers.”
Hicks said the process could be completed in the next 45 days. Until then, Hicks said it’s “business as usual” for the Rangers. He met with Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels on Tuesday to discuss their offseason plan.
Much is unchanged. The Rangers still don’t plan to invest in expensive long-term contracts for free-agent pitchers and they are still committed to building around their young players. But Hicks said that Texas will remain active in the free-agent market looking for the right fit.
“There will be opportunities as to what’s out there,” Hicks said. “The current economics affect every team. But there may be some talented players out there on a reasonable basis. When did Bobby Abreu sign with the Angels last year … February?”
Added Hicks, “The Texas Rangers financial position, when this is all over, will be stronger than it’s ever been.”