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12/15/09 10:15 PM EST

Greenberg group picked for Rangers sale

Ryan part of contingent given exclusive negotiating rights

ARLINGTON -- A group headed by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg has been selected by Rangers owner Tom Hicks to enter into exclusive negotiations to buy the franchise, according to an official announcement made by Hicks Sports Group on Tuesday.

Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan has committed to being a part of Greenberg's group and would remain in his current position as club president. Greenberg is expected to hold the position of managing general partner.

That was the position held by former President George W. Bush when his group bought the Rangers in 1989. Hicks and his family will remain in the ownership group as minority partners, but the ballclub will be run by a board of directors led by Greenberg and Ryan.

"Our family has chosen to negotiate with the group we believe will be best to protect and ensure the long-term positive future of this franchise," Hicks said in a statement. "We understand that this is more than a transaction. You never really own a baseball team; you just have the right to be the trustee of a public institution. Nolan Ryan is the personification of the word trust. He and Chuck worked diligently and relentlessly to get to this point."

Hicks made the decision on Tuesday, picking Greenberg over two other groups, one headed by former players agent Dennis Gilbert and another led by Houston businessman Jim Crane.

Crane made a strong proposal last week that was substantially higher financially than other bids previously submitted. Greenberg and Ryan submitted a revised proposal of their own on Tuesday and that carried the day.

Hicks and Greenberg now have 30 days to negotiate and complete the sale of the team before presenting it to Major League Baseball for approval.

"There's a lot of work to do," Greenberg said in the same statement. "The deal isn't done yet, but I am confident we can complete this soon and have the Rangers well-positioned for the future. We are committed to stability, continuing to work the baseball plan that's in place, and doing whatever is necessary to build upon the team's tradition and bring home a World Series championship."

Tuesday was the deadline for Hicks to choose one of the three groups, and Commissioner Bud Selig made it clear early in the day that the process needs to come to a conclusion.

"All processes and sale processes like [the] stadium deal are different and often difficult [with] no set timetable," Selig said. "I would say overall that given all the things that have happened, it's had ups and downs, but we are clearly moving toward a conclusion."

Hicks announced in Spring Training that he was looking for minority partners to help him reduce the substantial debt accrued by Hicks Sports Group. He has since expanded that search to consider proposals that would include buying the team outright or leaving him as a minority partner.

Any sale must also be approved by the banks that hold the debt on Hicks Sports Group.

"I am most appreciative of the fans' patience and support for the last year," Hicks said. "I know it's been difficult, but this new generation of ownership is 100 percent resolved to excellence and a superior fan experience for the long term."

Hicks purchased the Rangers in 1998 in an ownership group that was headed by Bush, Tom Schieffer and Rusty Rose. The Rangers won two division titles in Hicks' first two years, but have had just two winning seasons this decade. The Rangers were 87-75 this past season.

"Tom and his family have owned the team for 11 years," Ryan said. "They are passionate about the game and the team. We will benefit from continuing to have Tom as a partner and have access to his business acumen and experience."

Ryan and Hicks are among a number of local investors who have joined Greenberg's group. Greenberg has also made it clear that he will relocate his family from Pittsburgh to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Having Ryan on board was a big asset in his attempt to purchase the Rangers.

"Nolan has done a terrific job down there," Selig said. "The Rangers have a terrific farm system and they've done their work properly. Let's just hope it can all work out and we move on and settle these things so the franchise can move forward."

Greenberg currently owns two Minor League teams in Myrtle Beach (S.C.) and State College (Pa.), and he formerly owned a third team in Altoona, Pa. His Minor League teams have won several national awards for their marketing and promotional efforts.

He also heads his own company -- Greenberg Sports Group -- which provides management, consulting and marketing services to the sports industry across the country.

Both Greenberg and Hicks declined to discuss the specifics of the final working ownership proposal.

The Greenberg-Ryan group would be the sixth ownership group in Rangers history. Bob Short was the owner when the team arrived in 1972. He was followed by Brad Corbett (1974-80), Eddie Chiles (1980-89), Bush-Rose-Schieffer (1989-98) and Hicks.

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