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12/11/09 2:40 PM EST

Crane submits new offer to buy Rangers

Hicks again has three groups to choose from, may decide soon

ARLINGTON -- Houston businessman Jim Crane has re-entered the Rangers ownership picture.

Crane, who appeared to drop out of the running last month because he didn't seem likely to get approval from Major League Baseball, told club president Nolan Ryan on Thursday that he has submitted a new proposal to buy the Rangers.

Once again, Rangers owner Tom Hicks has three groups to choose from in deciding who ultimately buys the team. The group selected won't automatically get the team, but will enter into exclusive negotiating rights with Hicks to buy the team.

A high-ranking official familiar with the process said, "Economics will drive this deal."

That's because the reason Hicks is selling the team is due to the substantial debt accrued by Hicks Sports Group. Hicks needs to sell some or all of the team in order to pay off or reduce the HSG debt, and the group that makes the highest bid will likely end up with the team.

Hicks is expected to make a decision by Tuesday. That was the deadline handed down by Major League Baseball, but there is still some question if that deadline is hard and fast, and some believe the process will continue on long past that.

"It's still very much in Tom's hands," Ryan said. "From the organization's standpoint, we'd like to have this resolved so we can go into the new year not having it hanging over our heads. We'd like to be able to get ready for Spring Training."

Ryan remains aligned with a group headed by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg. Dennis Gilbert, a former players' agent who owns a Beverly Hills insurance company, heads a group out of Chicago that is also trying to buy the team.

Ryan has made it clear that he will remain with the Rangers as club president if Greenberg buys the team. Ryan said he does not expect to stay if Gilbert buys the team. Gilbert will likely take over the day-to-day operations, something Ryan does now as club president.

Greenberg has offered Hicks an opportunity to stay on as a minority owner in his group. Gilbert had discussions with Hicks about forming their own partnership but that has fallen apart. Hicks could still form his own ownership group that would allow him to retain control of the team.

Both Gilbert and Greenberg have strong suits and both are considered "valid bidders" by Major League Baseball. Gilbert has a long history in baseball as both an agent and, currently, an executive with the White Sox. He commands respect and has strong standing within the game because of his work with RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) and the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation.

Greenberg has a successful track record as an owner of three Minor League teams that have been recognized for their outstanding promotional and marketing efforts. He also has Ryan on his team as well as an ownership group that is made up of about 80 percent of local investors. His side has been well-organized and is determined to stay around to the end.

But, because of the substantial debt involved, the sale remains a situation that will be determined by economics.

"It's hard to predict where this will go," Ryan said. "I'm just taking the position of waiting and seeing where this thing will go. It's in Tom's hands and Major League Baseball."

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