Jim Crane waiting to buy Astros

HOUSTON -- Jim Crane is becoming impatient at how long it's taking Major League Baseball to approve his purchase of the Houston Astros.

The Houston businessman told the Houston Chronicle in his first interview since the news conference to announce the sale that his contract with current Astros owner Drayton McLane has a deadline.

He said in the story posted Thursday night that the $680 million deal with McLane announced May 16 goes through Nov. 30.

"When that expires, then it expires," Crane said. "The contract goes through November 30. You know, that's a pretty standard process when you sign a deal like that."

He believes the approval may be being held up to pressure him into agreeing to move the Astros from the National League to the American League. He said he would consider such a move, but that it's a complicated decision.

"We signed an agreement in May, and that agreement hinges off all the economics that were presented to us," he said. "We're paying a very handsome sum for the team, and that was based off the deal that was presented to us. That was a signed contract, and we will honor that contract. If that changes, we've told baseball that if they want us to move to the American League we'd certainly consider that, but we have to understand all the ramifications of that. That includes travel, that includes paying for a designated hitter that we don't have to pay for. That includes our TV contract."

Crane tells the newspaper that concerns about past discrimination complaints and war profiteering charges at two of his companies have been resolved and are not a problem with MLB. A spokesman for MLB didn't immediately return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Crane has not responded to past requests for an interview from the AP and an Astros spokesman didn't immediately return an email seeking comment.

In 1997, employees of Crane's former company, Eagle USA Airfreight, filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying there was discrimination against African Americans and women of childbearing age. Eagle settled the case in 2005 for about $900,000.

"The company ended up settling a small group of claims only because the board felt that it was more economical for the shareholders to go ahead and pay out a small number on cases that we could probably have litigated and won," Crane said. "I didn't want to pay the claims, but when it costs $3 million to try them and $900,000 to pay them out, it's a business decision at that point."

He's unhappy with how he's been portrayed in media reports regarding that issue since agreeing to buy the Astros.

"I was never personally accused of discriminating against anyone, and I have never discriminated with anyone," he said. "The way this is reported is that I've had issues with minorities and blacks, and that's just not the case."

The other issue has to do with a Justice Department charge of war profiteering against Crane's Eagle Global Logistics. Eagle paid $4 million in August 2006 to settle a civil lawsuit alleging that the company had inflated the costs of military shipments to Iraq. It was alleged that the company added 50 cents for each kilogram of freight transported to Baghdad on shipments from Dubai in 2003 and 2004.

Crane told the newspaper that it was an isolated incident involving two people in one of the company's 400 offices.

Despite the delay, Crane remains confident that the deal will eventually be approved.

"We've worked very hard to own a team," he said. "We think we've put a very good proposal in place and a very good set of owners, and we'll do a very good job with the team, given the chance. And we want to do what's best for baseball."