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12/04/09 5:29 PM EST

Hicks ends negotiations with Gilbert

Decision on club's sale expected to come by Dec. 15

ARLINGTON -- Rangers owner Tom Hicks has stopped working on a potential partnership with Dennis Gilbert in a future new ownership group, according to an industry source.

Gilbert, a former player agent who made his fortune in the insurance business, and Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg head the two groups that have submitted proposals to purchase the Rangers from Hicks.

Hicks is currently reviewing the proposals and is expected to make a decision by Dec. 15.

Houston businessman Jim Crane also submitted a proposal but is no longer in the running. Crane reportedly at one time had an agreement to buy the Houston Astros, but dropped out at the 11th hour, and that did not go over well with Major League Baseball.

Hicks had talked about forming his own local ownership group that would allow him to retain control of the team and still pay off the substantial debt incurred by Hicks Sports Group. That debt is the primary reason why Hicks has the Rangers up for sale.

Team president Nolan Ryan is a part of the Greenberg group. If Greenberg ends up buying the team, Ryan would remain in his current role. If Gilbert's group buys the team, it's unlikely that Ryan would stay with the Rangers.

Hicks had substantial negotiations with Gilbert about being a part of that group. But those discussions have broken off. Greenberg's partnership with Ryan could put him in the pole position, but the process is still ongoing.

Hicks will make the decision on which proposal to accept. But any ownership transfer must be approved by Major League Baseball and also almost certainly will need to have the blessing of Commissioner Bud Selig. Any ownership transfer would also have to be approved by the banks that hold the debt on Hicks Sports Group and by the National Hockey League. Hicks Sports Group also owns the Dallas Stars.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.