12/16/09 4:00 PM EST
McLane had Astros sale on table
Longtime owner says deal never got close to finalized
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
McLane told the Houston Chronicle that he and Crane shook hands when they agreed upon a price to sell the club following the 2008 season, but McLane said Crane later backed out, citing the recession. McLane bought the team for $117 million in 1992, and earlier this year, Forbes magazine estimated its value at $445 million.
McLane said Wednesday from Garland, Texas, he'd be willing to listen if someone were interested in buying the team, but he also said the team isn't for sale.
"If somebody comes to me or one of my sons and was a highly credible person or organization and had the financial wherewithal, we'd talk to them," McLane said. "If you ask me, 'Are the Astros for sale?' No."
McLane said he was approached in 2007 by George Postolos, former president and chief executive officer of the NBA's Houston Rockets, about selling the team to Crane. Postolos left the Rockets in 2006 to form a group that helps with the acquisition of sports franchises.
"George worked for him, and George first approached me in late 2007," McLane said. "I told them I had no interest, and they came back later with a very attractive price and said they were willing to pay for the Astros. We started negotiations, but never reached a financial agreement, nor did we sign a contact.
"Jim changed his mind. The recession started in 2008, and he called and said he wanted to end negotiations. I have no hard feelings towards him. I had mixed emotions about selling in the first place. We never got close to finishing a deal."
McLane did say he and Crane shook hands and agreed on a price. Crane, the owner of Crane Capital, tried to buy the Chicago Cubs earlier this year and later attempted to purchase the Texas Rangers.
"We still had to work out all the details," McLane said. "We were working out the details and beginning to work towards a contact but never finished the contract. It's kind of like when you and your wife go out and look at houses and you talk to someone two or three times and negotiate with them and either you change your mind and he changes his mind and it all goes away.
"In the last five or six years, a lot of people and talked [to him about buying the team] and 99 percent of the time it never amounts to more than one conversation."
Since he purchased the Astros, McLane has taken the franchise to new heights, including six playoff berths and the team's first World Series appearance in 2005. The Astros moved into Minute Maid Park in 2000, and this year celebrated their 10th season in the downtown ballpark.
Last season, the Astros had a club-record payroll of around $107 million and finished in fifth place in the National League Central. McLane said next year's payroll will be around $95 million.
"That shows we're committed to what we're doing," McLane said. "I'm excited about next year. When Christmastime ends, that's when you really started getting excited about the season. Football winds down, the weather in late January starts warming up and I'm ready to go."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.