Hicks Sports Group Creditors Threatening bankruptcy for the Rangers

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It’s hard to tell if this afternoon’s BusinessWeek report represents something truly new or if it’s more of a rehash of what we already know, but for the record:

The Texas Rangers, the Major League Baseball team
controlled by billionaire Thomas Hicks, may be forced into bankruptcy
unless terms of a planned sale of the team are improved or another buyer
is found, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Creditors led by Monarch Alternative Capital may
block Hicks Sports Group LLC, which defaulted on $525 million of debt
last year, from selling the Rangers and try to put the team into
bankruptcy, said the people, who declined to be identified because the
debt talks are private. The creditor group, which includes CIT Group
Inc. and Galatioto Sports Partners LLC, is seeking at least $30 million
more from the team’s sale, one of the people said.

The dynamic is the same that we’ve seen all along: Hicks’ creditors want more money, they’re threatening to force the team into bankruptcy if they don’t get it. Based on the tone of the article and based on the positions the parties have taken in the past, my guess is that the source for this specific report is one of the creditors, trying to ratchet up the pressure. The whole thing works best if you read it in a “and this time we really, really mean it” tone.

Not that it’s an empty or meaningless threat. No one ever gets rich forcing one’s opponent into bankruptcy, but this may one of those situations where it makes some amount of sense. The biggest problem of bankruptcy is the delay it causes in the asset in question getting liquidated, which often diminishes its value. The nut of this dispute, however, is Hicks’ proceeds from a land sale to Greenberg along with the Rangers. Land for mixed-use development — which is what this land, next to the Ballpark, is — is likely about as down in the dumper as it’s ever going to be right now.  Yes, bankruptcy will cause everyone to incur costs in the short term, but if the whole thing gets tied up for months or longer that same piece of land is still going to have to be disposed of in the end, and there’s every reason to believe that it will be worth more later than it is now.

But however that shakes out — and there are a million ways it could shake out — this report can be viewed as a signpost.  A week ago it was reported that Major League Baseball was stepping in to try and persuade the creditors to get the deal done. At the time Greenberg made noises that it would get done next week. The next thing we hear from the creditors is a renewed bankruptcy threat.

What to make of it? Perhaps they are not all that impressed with Mr. Selig’s efforts to play peacemaker. Perhaps they are not all that impressed with Mr. Greenberg’s public statements of inevitability.  Perhaps no one — not Hicks, not Greenberg, not baseball, not anyone — has enough money to wave at Hicks’ creditors to make them think that they’d get all that worse a deal in bankruptcy court. Hard to say.

The only thing that is certain in all of this is that Greenberg will come out with a statement in the next 48 hours in which he tells us, once again, that the deal is almost done. Because that’s what he always does.

(Thanks to Kevin T. for the heads up)

The Braves are banning outside food. And they’re probably lying about why they’re doing it.

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Here’s a thing a lot of people don’t realize: there are a lot of ballparks that allow you to bring in outside food.

Not all of them, but a lot do. They don’t publicize it, obviously, because they want you to buy their expensive food, but if you go to the concessions policy page on most team’s websites, you can get the scoop. It often lists “soft-sided coolers” under “permitted items,” which is code for “yes, you can bring your own food in.” Some may specifically limit THAT to sealed plastic water bottles, but for the most part, if you can bring soft-sided coolers into the park, that means it’s OK to bring in grandma’s potato salad and a few sandwiches. They may check your coolers, of course, to make sure you’re not bringing in alcohol or whatever.

The Atlanta Braves have always allowed food into the ballpark. But thats going to change in shiny new Sun Trust Park. The AJC reports that the Braves have announced a new policy via which ticket holders will not be allowed to bring in outside food. Exceptions will be made for infant food and for special dietary restriction items.

Which, OK, it’s their park and their rules. If they want to cut out the PB&J for junior and force you to buy him a $9 “kids pack” — or if they want you to forego grandma’s potato salad to buy that pork chop sandwich we mentioned yesterday — that’s their choice. Everything else about the Braves new stadium has been about extracting money from fans, so why not the concessions policy too?

My beef with this is less about the policy. It’s about their stated reason for it:

The changes are a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league, said the Braves spokesperson.

This, as the French say, is horses**t.

We know it is because not all teams are prohibiting outside food. If there are tighter security measures across the board, other teams are implementing them without the food restriction. Even the Yankees, who take security theater to extreme heights as it is, are still allowing fans to bring in their own food.

The Braves, I strongly suspect, are using these measures as an excuse to cut down on competition for their concessions. Which, like I said, go for it. Just be honest about what you’re doing and stop blaming “tightened security” for your cash grab.

Yadier Molina says Adam Jones “has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people”

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After the U.S. won the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night, Adam Jones told a reporter that he and his teammates were motivated in part by the fact that Puerto Rico already had championship t-shirts printed up and plans for a parade/celebration in Puerto Rico in place beforehand.

Which, OK, whatever you need to motivate you, Adam, but all of that seems complicated by the fact that (a) ALL teams playing for a championship have pre-printed gear, thus enabling them to be put on moments after the final out; and (b) Puerto Rico’s celebration plans were not contingent on winning or losing. In fact, they went ahead and had a parade/celebration even though they lost. The WBC was a big deal to them in ways it simply wasn’t to the U.S., so it makes sense.

Yadier Molina of Team Puerto Rico did not take kindly to Jones’ comments. He tells ESPN Deportes this:

“Adam Jones … is talking about things he doesn’t know about,” Molina told ESPN. “He really has to get informed because he shouldn’t have said those comments, let alone in public and mocking the way [preparations] were made . . . He has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people,” Molina said. “Obviously, you wanted to win; he didn’t know what this means to [our] people.”

Kind of a messy little controversy, eh?

My feeling about it is that Jones probably didn’t know the whole story about Puerto Rico’s plans and misinterpreted celebration for arrogance. I also suspect that most players motivate themselves in all manner of irrational ways like this, but we just don’t hear about it all that much. Jones can do whatever he wants to psych himself up, but it changes the equation a bit when you talk about it to the press. Perceived slights that an athlete uses internally can seem petty once exposed to the light of day.

Either way: Jones does not have a reputation for being insulting or disrespectful, so I seriously doubt that was his intent here. I also think that, while Molina has a right to be miffed, the “he must apologize to the Puerto Rican people” thing is laying it on a bit thick. Maybe Jones can just text Molina and some P.R. players and say he was sorry, followed by a “we’re all good, man” and this can end? That makes the most sense.

If not, well, the Orioles do play the Cardinals in an interleague series this summer, so maybe we’ll see some fireworks.