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Friday, May 13, 2011
Owner confident deal will be finalized

Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane is "very confident" he will be able to complete the sale of his team to businessman Jim Crane but said Friday they are still working on finalizing the deal.

"You just keep working through them until you resolve all the problems," McLane said. "We've had an agreement in principle for a couple of weeks. It just takes time to finish the agreement."

McLane purchased the team in November 1992 for about $117 million. He put the franchise up for sale in November and retained the New York investment firm Allen and Co. to help him broker the deal.

Crane has tried to buy the Astros before, approaching McLane about it in 2008, but McLane turned him down.

McLane expects the agreement to be finalized by the middle of next week and does not anticipate any roadblocks that could halt the deal.

"We've hopped over most of those in the last two weeks," he said.

When asked directly if he and Crane had reached an agreement, he said: "No, no, still working on it." He noted the complexities of negotiating such a deal.

"It's a baseball team and it's got a lot of complications on it and it's the ballpark, which is owned by the Harris County Houston Sports Authority, and we've got a 30-year lease and we've got to get all that together and with our [regional sports network] that doesn't really come into play until 2012," he said. "So we've got to get all of those parties engaged in it. They're working on their financing and then we've got to get it all approved by Major League Baseball."

The regional sports network McLane is referring to is the team's share in a new deal with the NBA's Houston Rockets that will begin airing Rockets games in 2012 and Astros games in the 2013 season. This network has been a major selling point in the deal.

McLane raved about Crane and thinks the team will be in good hands with him once the deal is completed.

Crane, who founded a Houston-based logistics company in 2008, is the chairman and chief executive officer of Crane Capital, a private equity fund company. The Astros aren't the only team he's tried to buy. In 2009 he was in the running to buy the Chicago Cubs and last summer he tried to buy the Texas Rangers, but both times he fell short.

"He's an experienced, very knowledgeable business person," McLane said. "He has a passion for baseball. He lives here and will continue to live here. He understands the community."

McLane's comments are consistent with comments made earlier in the week that the deal is close but still not finalized.