MLB owners approve Rangers sale

The sale of the Texas Rangers to a group led by Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg was approved Thursday morning in a unanimous vote by MLB owners.

"It's hard to comprehend that that is behind us because it dominated our lives so much, in that there were so many twists and turns during the process," said Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher and Texas icon.

The sale was officially announced Thursday afternoon at the MLB quarterly owners' meetings in Minneapolis, where sports attorney Greenberg and Rangers general manager Jon Daniels were in attendance.

"I am very pleased that Chuck, Nolan and their impressive ownership group have been approved as the new leadership of the Texas Rangers franchise," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "Chuck and Nolan have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the Rangers. Their passion for Major League Baseball as a whole and particularly the future of baseball in Texas is exemplary.

"In addition, I want to thank the Rangers' fans for their patience throughout this difficult process. I am confident that Chuck, Nolan and the entire ownership group will serve as dedicated stewards of this club by building a long-term, stable franchise which values its standing in the Dallas-Fort Worth communities. I am glad that the Rangers' great season on the field will get the attention it deserves during the pennant race."

Greenberg will act as managing partner and CEO while Ryan will remain team president.

"I can't tell you how excited we are to complete our purchase of the Texas Rangers," Greenberg said in a statement released by the team. "It's been a long journey, but well worth the wait. We believe that this franchise belongs to all of its fans, and we pledge to be passionate in all we do to bring you the very best on and off the field.

Through Wednesday's games, the Rangers have a 7½-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West -- the largest divisional lead in the majors.

"We can now turn our full attention to continuing what has been a great season on the field," Ryan said. "We thank the fans and the community for their tremendous loyalty and support and we look forward to the excitement as we head down the stretch and into October."

The entire Greenberg-Ryan ownership group, made up of 18 investors, is expected to be in place Friday when the club faces the Boston Red Sox at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"The biggest thing is we kept it in the family," outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "Nolan Ryan is pretty much the face of baseball in Texas period, so when you think about that, you want to have him around your team. He's done a great job here over the last couple of years with this team.

"Chuck Greenberg is just a down-to-earth humble man who wants to win, so the combination of the two is a good fit."

Greenberg said his management team met in the last week and will be announcing some intiatives to make the fan experience better on Friday. When pressed as to whether that included a reduction in ticket prices, Greenberg only said: "Stay tuned for tomorrow."

Greenberg said the club wants to capitalize on the buzz the team has produced and do what it can to keep the stadium full for meaningful games the next few months.

"We want to deliver on some of the things that folks understandably are expecting from us," Greenberg said. "We're interested in their opinions and want to incorporate some ideas to make it more interesting and affordable."

Greenberg said that finalizing the ownership deal has affected the timetable for some of the changes his group wants to make because they haven't thought about any operational concerns in the past four months. He also said that he lost all but one of the people he was hoping to bring to the front office.

"I couldn't ask them to put their families at risk because of this," Greenberg said. "But there are some extraordinary people across the sports industry that are interested in being a part of the Texas Rangers family. It's encouraging to see the quality of folks that want to be a part of what we're trying to put together."

The acquisition from then-owner Tom Hicks had been delayed, then the whole situation ended up in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The team's May filing included a plan to sell to the Greenberg-Ryan group, which was chosen as the new owner in January, but angry creditors successfully argued to reopen the bidding.

The messy court fight dragged on for 11 weeks and included a contentious auction with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban last week.

The Greenberg-Ryan group won with a bid valued at $590 million.

Had the plan been rejected, the team would have remained in bankruptcy court and the Greenberg-Ryan group -- long endorsed by Major League Baseball -- would have lost its chance to purchase the team, because its funding guarantee expired Thursday.

But after nearly three months of arguing attorneys, surprise lawsuits and even two last-minute attempts by Greenberg-Ryan to stop the auction, the group ended up with a winning bid that was about $100 million more than its opening offer.

Rangers attorneys say all disputes with lenders and others had been resolved, including an objection filed by Alex Rodriguez over concerns that he and other former players may not get the millions that the Rangers owe them.

The Greenberg-Ryan group's winning bid includes paying more than $200 million to unsecured creditors -- including Rodriguez, who is owed $24.9 million in deferred compensation six years after his trade to the New York Yankees.

Creditors will receive $75 million from the team in the bankruptcy plan, but the judge has said they can sue other entities of Hicks Sports Group, which defaulted on about $525 million in loans last year. Hicks is co-owner of the Liverpool football club, which is for sale, but the London sports team is not part of Hicks Sports Group and is safe from creditors in the Rangers' bankruptcy case.

Hicks will not be part of the new organization.

"It's just awesome that the franchise is headed in the right direction," outfielder David Murphy said. "We've got an ownership group that really cares about us. ... This is a group that really seems like they really care and they're going to do whatever it takes to make this team an annual winner."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.