The Rangers sale hits a snag. Again.

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I reported way back in December that Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan’s purchase of the Rangers was no done deal, that there were serious concerns that their offer was cash-light and debt-heavy, and too many people were owed too much by Tom Hicks to simply let the deal go through on the power of wishes, hopes and Nolan Ryan’s drawl.  At the time everyone — including Chuck Greenberg himself, who called me at home — told me I was wrong, and that things were smooth sailing.

Then a little problem with the creditors popped up, and once again I wrote about it.  Once again, people told me I was full of it, that the deal was all cream cheese, and why was I being such a negative nellie about it anyway?

As recently as a few days ago we were still getting those “this is a done deal” reports, the sort of which sound more like a press release than news.  But you’ll forgive me if I, once again, refuse to drink the Kool-Aid:

The sale of the Texas
Rangers stalled last week, sources said, after MLB informed the team’s
creditors that there would be delays in responding to the lenders’ concerns
about the deal.

The developments serve as
a challenge to would-be buyer Chuck Greenberg’s stated goal of having the
transaction closed by Opening Day, if it can close at all, the sources said . . .

. . . MLB, acting as
intermediary between the creditors and HSG, was scheduled to respond by Feb. 26
to their demand for more cash. On March 1, MLB informed the lenders that there
were delays but did not offer details for why the delays were happening, the
sources said.

Of the delays, one
financial source said, “I don’t even think a deal gets done at $300 million
from the banks’ perspective. It feels like they are spinning their wheels.”
Another financial source was not as pessimistic but conceded that the clock was
approaching midnight for getting a deal done by Opening Day.

The original basis of concerns I reported in December was that Greenberg’s group — which consists of a lot of investors banded together — didn’t have the cash.  In this, it’s like any other number of team purchases in recent years. Only in the post-2008 world, people aren’t as happy taking IOUs as they used to be.  While there was always some merit to those who gave blithe “everything is going to be fine” assurances before, right now people want their money, not promises. In light of this it doesn’t surprise me at all that the deal is hanging up like it is.

Will Greenberg and Ryan get the Rangers? I still think, yeah, it will probably happen.  Too many people want it to happen in order to stop it, and at some point, if the creditors become enough of a problem, baseball or someone may actually step in and help the buyers out in some way to get it done.  But please, everyone involved in this deal needs to stop pretending that we’re stupid for not buying their talking points.  This deal has been in some choppy water for a long time, and no amount of assuming its inevitability changes that.

Wayne Huizenga, founding owner of the Marlins, dies at 80

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MIAMI (AP) H. Wayne Huizenga, a college dropout who built a business empire that included Blockbuster Entertainment, AutoNation and three professional sports franchises, has died. He was 80.

Huizenga (HY’-zing-ah) died Thursday night at his home, Valerie Hinkell, a longtime assistant, said when reached at the family residence Friday. She gave no details on a cause of death.

Starting with a single garbage truck in 1968, Huzienga built Waste Management Inc. into a Fortune 500 company. He purchased independent sanitation engineering companies, and by the time he took the company public in 1972, he had completed the acquisition of 133 small-time haulers. By 1983, Waste Management was the largest waste disposal company in the United States.

The business model worked again with Blockbuster Video, which he started in 1985 and built into the leading movie rental chain nine years later. In 1996, he formed AutoNation and built it into a Fortune 500 company.

Huizenga was founding owner of baseball’s Florida Marlins and the NHL Florida Panthers – expansion teams that played their first games in 1993. He bought the NFL Miami Dolphins and their stadium for $168 million in 1994 from the children of founder Joe Robbie, but had sold all three teams by 2009.

The Marlins won the 1997 World Series, and the Panthers reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996, but Huizenga’s beloved Dolphins never reached a Super Bowl while he owned the team.

“If I have one disappointment, the disappointment would be that we did not bring a championship home,” Huizenga said shortly after he sold the Dolphins to New York real estate billionaire Stephen Ross. “It’s something we failed to do.”

Huizenga earned an almost cult-like following among business investors who watched him build Blockbuster Entertainment into the leading video rental chain by snapping up competitors. He cracked Forbes’ list of the 100 richest Americans, becoming chairman of Republic Services, one of the nation’s top waste management companies, and AutoNation, the nation’s largest automotive retailer. In 2013, Forbes estimated his wealth at $2.5 billion.

For a time, Huizenga was also a favorite with South Florida sports fans, drawing cheers and autograph seekers in public. The crowd roared when he danced the hokey pokey on the field during an early Marlins game. He went on a spending spree to build a veteran team that won the World Series in the franchise’s fifth year.

But his popularity plummeted when he ordered the roster dismantled after that season. He was frustrated by poor attendance and his failure to swing a deal for a new ballpark built with taxpayer money.

Many South Florida fans never forgave him for breaking up the championship team. Huizenga drew boos when introduced at Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino’s retirement celebration in 2000, and kept a lower public profile after that.

In 2009, Huizenga said he regretted ordering the Marlins’ payroll purge.

“We lost $34 million the year we won the World Series, and I just said, `You know what, I’m not going to do that,”‘ Huizenga said. “If I had it to do over again, I’d say, `OK, we’ll go one more year.”‘

He sold the Marlins in 1999 to John Henry, and sold the Panthers in 2001, unhappy with rising NHL player salaries and the stock price for the team’s public company.

Huizenga’s first sports love was the Dolphins – he had been a season-ticket holder since their first season in 1966. But he fared better in the NFL as a businessman than as a sports fan.

He turned a nifty profit by selling the Dolphins and their stadium for $1.1 billion, nearly seven times what he paid to become sole owner. But he knew the bottom line in the NFL is championships, and his Dolphins perennially came up short.

Huizenga earned a reputation as a hands-off owner and won raves from many loyal employees, even though he made six coaching changes. He eased Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Shula into retirement in early 1996, and Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, interim coach Jim Bates, Nick Saban, Cam Cameron and Tony Sporano followed as coach.

Harry Wayne Huizenga was born in the Chicago suburbs on Dec. 29, 1937, to a family of garbage haulers. He began his business career in Pompano Beach in 1962, driving a garbage truck from 2 a.m. to noon each day for $500 a month.

One customer successfully sued Huizenga, saying that in an argument over a delinquent account, Huizenga injured him by grabbing his testicles – an allegation Huizenga always denied.

“I never did that. The guy was a deputy cop. It was his word against mine, a young kid,” he told Fortune magazine in 1996.

Huizenga was a five-time recipient of Financial World magazine’s “CEO of the Year” award, and was the Ernst & Young “2005 World Entrepreneur of the Year.”

Regarding his business acumen, Huzienga said: “You just have to be in the right place at the right time. It can only happen in America.”

In September 1960, he married Joyce VanderWagon. Together they had two children, Wayne Jr. and Scott. They divorced in 1966. Wayne married his second wife, Marti Goldsby, in April 1972. She died in 2017.

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