MLB working to sell Rangers franchise

NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball has loaned millions to Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks, Yahoo! reported.

The league would not go into details about any borrowing, but said it was assisting Rangers owner Tom Hicks with the sale of the franchise.

"Tom is the control person, and there was no issue of making payroll," Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said Thursday. "Major League Baseball is working with the Rangers to sell the team, as Tom requested."

Hicks did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Yahoo!, citing a major league source, first reported Thursday that a loan was made to Hicks Sports Group and that the amount was believed to be for less than $15 million.

The sport's central office routinely withholds $15 million to $20 million owed each team from central revenues and the sale of the Montreal Expos, and teams may borrow from that with the permission of commissioner Bud Selig.

A caller Wednesday to an XM radio station said the Rangers had failed to make payroll and had to get $15 million from Major League Baseball. The host, former Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy, said he knew something about the situation.

Reports of the radio broadcast were published by rangerfans.com, a Web site that follows the team.

Texas began the season with a payroll of $68.6 million, 22nd among the 30 big league teams.

It's not unprecedented for teams to borrow from MLB. In 1992, the Detroit Tigers borrowed about $5 million to make payroll one month.

Hicks said in May he was willing to sell controlling interest in the franchise. Earlier this year, Hicks Sports Group defaulted on $525 million in loans backed by the Rangers and the NHL's Dallas Stars, the other U.S. sports franchise Hicks owns.

Hicks bought the Rangers for $250 million in 1998. Last month, Forbes valued the franchise at $405 million, 15th among the 30 major league teams.

Two years ago, Hicks combined with Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr. to buy Liverpool of the English Premier League through a different entity, Kop Football (Holdings) Ltd. It has been negotiating to refinance 350 million pounds ($574 million) debt before a July 24 deadline.

Gillett agreed last month to sell the Canadiens, the Gillett Entertainment Centre and the Bell Centre.