Report: Astros sale on meeting agenda

NEW YORK -- The proposed sale of the Houston Astros from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane is on the agenda for approval when baseball owners meet next week, The Associated Press has learned.

Two people familiar with the negotiations say McLane, Crane and Major League Baseball have reached an understanding on how a possible shift of the franchise to the American League in 2013 would take place. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because MLB had made no announcements.

Last May, McLane and Crane announced a sale valued at $680 million, the second-highest purchase price in baseball history behind the $845 million purchase of the Chicago Cubs by the Ricketts family two years ago.

Progress toward approval slowed when MLB wanted Crane to accept a possible switch to the AL. The understanding on a switching the Astros out of the National League was part of a new negotiation that covered several points, one of the people said.

The players' association has pushed for a switch to two 15-team leagues, saying it would create a more equitable schedule. The earliest any league switch would take place is 2013.

The deal also was placed on the agenda for the Aug. 18 meeting at Cooperstown, then withdrawn before owners arrived. The people familiar with the negotiations said it appeared it would remain on the agenda next Thursday when the owners hold meetings in Milwaukee.

McLane, who bought the team in November 1992 for about $117 million, put the franchise up for sale a year ago. Crane has tried to buy the Astros before, approaching McLane about it in 2008, but McLane turned him down.

The sale is expected to include the ballpark owned by the Harris County Houston Sports Authority and a regional sports network set to begin airing Houston Rockets games in 2012 and Astros games in 2013.

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. Two years ago, he was in the running to buy the Chicago Cubs and last summer he tried to buy the Texas Rangers.

In September, Crane expressed frustration at how long it was taking MLB to move on the sale and noted there is a Nov. 30 deadline.

Crane has not responded to requests for an interview. Neither he nor McLane returned messages from the AP on Friday.