HOUSTON — Jim Crane addressed the media Thursday at Minute Maid Park just hours after commissioner Bud Selig announced that Major League Baseball had approved the final sale of the Astros.
Crane’s group purchased the franchise from longtime owner Drayton McLane Jr., but as a condition of the sale, the Astros agreed to move to the American League West for the start of 2013.
It marked a historical day in Major League Baseball.
The highly-anticipated switch to the AL became a reality for the Astros, while Selig announced that MLB will add two Wild Card teams — one per league — which could begin as early as 2012.
Selig also made it known that the creation of two 15-team leagues has opened the door for interleague play “from Opening Day on.”
Plus, Crane’s group becomes the fifth ownership in franchise history, joining Roy Hofheinz, GE Credit & Ford Motor Credit, John McMullen and McLane.
The day belonged to Crane, who stated it was a dream come true for him and his partners to buy a Major League Baseball team.
“We worked long and hard to get a baseball team and will work even harder to win a World Series for our hometown,” Crane said.
Crane began the news conference by crediting McLane.
“I want to thank Drayton McLane for all of his support,” Crane said. “He has been very kind. We have a really good working relationship. I look forward to spending some time with him in the future. If it wasn’t for Drayton, I don’t think this thing would have continued to move forward. I wish to thank him for all he has done.”
Crane also thanked his principal investors, who include John Havens, Bill Morgan, Doug Bauer, John Hauck & TSI Holding Company, Greg Allen & family, Neil Kelley & Partners, Milton Carroll & Partners, Will Galtney and John Eddie Williams & Cary Patterson.
He confirmed his attendance at the owners’ meetings in Milwaukee.
“I got to sit in at the owners’ meetings,” Crane said. “I’m very impressed with what baseball is doing. Baseball is headed on the right track. It has a really bright future. We want to work hard to develop Houston and get the team back on track as a contender.”
Crane’s group plans to take over next Tuesday.
“We want to focus on bringing a winner back to Houston,” he said. “We’ll close the transaction on Tuesday. We’ll take over on Tuesday. We’re excited about that. We have a lot of plans on what to do.”
Crane briefly touched on the lengthy delay of the transfer of ownership, which ultimately took six months following him and McLane reaching a $680 million purchase agreement last May.
He stated that any rumors or allegations in his past regarding business practices or character issues did not slow down the process.
It was always an issue of switching leagues.
“Baseball has very high standards,” Crane said. “As I said in May, we felt confident there wasn’t anything in anyone’s past that would slow this down. I think it became evident a move to the AL was an issue. We had a transaction that was done in May.
“It was made very clear to us that anybody who owned the team would be doing that. We sat down with Drayton and MLB to sort it out.”
The $70 million discount Crane reportedly received as part of his group agreeing to the move has been dominating recent headlines.
According to sources, Crane’s group is collaborating to pay $610 million for the club, while McLane will get approximately $645 million.
Crane’s discount is reportedly an even split by McLane and MLB.
“We did not receive any money for the transaction,” Crane said. “The money that is being reported is fairly accurate. Any funds and compensation was sent to Drayton and was structured as a purchase-price reduction. The deal turned out to be different than the one we started with. That was the adjustment.
“I think baseball tried to be as fair as they possibly could on that. The deal works for our group. It works for Houston. It’ll work for our fans. We can put a good product out on the field.”
With the Crane era set to begin, another one comes to an end.
McLane, whose motto is “be a champion,” departs Houston as arguably the most successful and beloved owner in team history.
The Astros appeared in the postseason six times during his 19 seasons and made the World Series for the first time in 2005.
Under McLane’s guidance, the Astros became successful on and off the field, and moved into a new downtown stadium in 2000 — drawing more than 30 million to the venue in the last 12 seasons.
He’s made a positive difference in the community, as evident with the Astros in Action Foundation and MLB Urban Youth Academy.
It’s hard to put into words his overall significance.
Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, Jeff Kent, Brad Ausmus, Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Moises Alou, Hunter Pence, Billy Wagner and Brad Lidge are part of his legacy.
Don’t forget the impact of Carlos Beltran, Ken Caminiti, Carl Everett, Mike Hampton, Richard Hildago, Darryl Kile, Randy Johnson, Jose Lima, Shane Reynolds and even Chris Burke on the franchise.
McLane will always be a special part of Astros’ history.
“Our family has been proud to be a part of the Astros for the past 19 years,” McLane said. “We have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful fans and experience a great deal of special moments.
“We thank the great Astros fans and the many, many friends we have made for the support you have given us. It’s been a fun ride.”
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