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Will The Astros Change Hands By July?

Looking over this report, via John Granato through Lance Zeirlein through our own Rivers McCown, it appears the Astros' owner Drayton McClane is close to selling the team. Reports through the Houston Chronicle earlier this month suggested the front-runner for that sale is Houston businessman Jim Crane, who had a handshake deal to buy the team following the 2008 season. Crane then reneged on that deal, which upset Drayton pretty badly.

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Apparently, bygones are bygones and Richard Justice has been hinting that Crane is the foregone conclusion to be the new owner, according to his sources in MLB's office (Bud Selig?). Putting all this together, does that mean we can see a new ownership group installed by the end of July?

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That's a bit unlikely. While the sale may be approved to move forward on Drayton's end, there is still a lot of red tape that must be crossed before the sale can be finalized and the team exchange hands. First, Crane (or another prospective owner) would have to be vetted by the MLB office. Specifically, they will want to answer some pretty tough questions about his finances.

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That could still be one of the stumbling blocks for Crane. Because of the fiascoes in Arlington under Tom Hicks, with the Madoff-led New York Mets and the Divorce Court LA Dodgers, MLB is cracking down on their debt rules. In this shady world of baseball finances, some have floated the notion that Crane may have to carry too much debt for MLB's tastes.

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Their taste is also important, because any new owner must be approved by a majority of current MLB owners at a meeting. That meeting has to be set up, usually over a weekend, and a decision reached then. At that point, things are wrapped up and ownership is officially transferred.

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It's a long process. If we use the Texas Rangers sale as a benchmark, it could take a very long time. This is the first article I could find saying that the Rangers and Hicks had agreed to sell the team to Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan. That was on January 23, 2010. Five months later, on May 24, the sale was still not finalized and was held up by struggles with the creditors for the team. Things got contentious from there, and the team was finally auctioned off to Greenberg/Ryan on August 5. Owners approved the group on Aug. 12 and the sale was finally finalized. 

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The Astros don't have anywhere near the debt that Hicks did, so don't expect that to be a problem. But, that five month window from agreement to finalization might be apt. Things could get sped up a bit, considering how Drayton has been such the good solider for Selig and Co., but even if the sale is agreed upon by July, it may be the end of the season before the Astros get a new owner.

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Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.