WHEN a company defaults on its debts, it typically enters bankruptcy; its assets are sold and the proceeds are divvied up among creditors under court supervision. Not so when one of those assets is a Major League Baseball (MLB) team. Under rules established by the league’s commissioner, who is chosen by the clubs’ owners, any sale of a team must be approved by at least 23 of the game’s 30 franchises. The league says this rule is protected by its 80-year-old exemption from American antitrust law. The Texas Rangers’ declaration of bankruptcy on May 24th will put that claim to the test.
In 1998 Tom Hicks, a leveraged-buy-out specialist, bought the Rangers for $250m from a group of owners that included George W. Bush. He soon authorised a bevy of disastrously expensive contracts for players, including a ten-year, $252m deal for Alex Rodríguez, a star hitter, which was twice as costly as the previous record. To pay its bloated salaries, the club had to ask MLB for a $25m loan in 2009. It also missed a mandatory $40m payment into a fund for deferred player compensation.
1998年，融资收购专家Tom Hicks花了2.5亿美元，从包括小布什总统在内的一群股东那里买下了德州游骑兵队。不久，他同意以惊人的天价签约金签下一批球员，包括明星打者Alex Rodríguez十年2.52亿美元交易，这是过去交易最高纪录的两倍。为支付膨胀的球员薪水，游骑兵队必须在2009年向大联盟借贷2,500万美元。游骑兵队也未缴纳4,000万美元强制款给拖欠球员薪水的赔偿基金。
Last year Hicks Sports Group (HSG), the holding company that owns the Rangers, the Dallas Stars hockey team and the Stars’ arena, stopped paying interest on its $525m of debts. (Britain’s Liverpool football club, which is half-owned by Mr Hicks, is not held by HSG). HSG put the Rangers up for sale, and three bidders placed offers.
Mr Hicks chose to enter exclusive negotiations with a group led by Chuck Greenberg, a sports lawyer, and Nolan Ryan, a legendary former pitcher for the Rangers who is now the team’s president. In January the two sides announced a $575m deal, in which Mr Greenberg would buy the team from HSG, and 153 acres of land surrounding its stadium from a different firm also controlled by Mr Hicks. The property in question includes the lucrative parking lots for both the Rangers and the Dallas Cowboys football team, who play nearby. Mr Hicks would also have retained a small stake in the club.更多信息请访问：http://www.24en.com/
Tom Hicks挑选由运动律师Chuck Greenberg和传奇人物Nolan Ryan（游骑兵队前投手）率领的集团，直接进入排他性的单独议价。今年一月，双方宣布一件5.75亿美元交易案，Chuck Greenberg从HSG集团手上买下了游骑兵队，以及从Tom Hicks掌控的另一家公司买下了棒球场周围的153英亩土地。产生疑问的财产包括了提供给游骑兵队和美式足球达拉斯牛仔队（球场也在附近）收入颇丰的停车场。Tom Hicks还替自己在游骑兵队保留了一些小股份。
However, the sale has been blocked by HSG’s creditors, led by Monarch Alternative Capital, a distressed-debt hedge fund. HSG used the Rangers as collateral for $75m of its debt, and so cannot sell the team without its creditors’ blessing. But the creditors are not happy with the agreement between Mr Hicks and Mr Greenberg, under which they would receive around $230m of the $525m they are owed. They say other bidders might pay $300m.
然而，这笔交易一直遭到HSG集团债权人的阻挠，这群债权人由廉价债务避险基金Monarch Alternative Capital率领。HSG集团曾利用游骑兵队作为7,500万美元欠债的抵押，因此无法在债权人不同意的情况下出售游骑兵队。但是，这群债权人对于Tom Hicks与Chuck Greenberg之间的协议不太满意，根据协议，他们只能从5.25亿美元欠债中拿回2.3亿美元左右。他们表示其他竞标者愿意出价三亿美元。
By putting the Rangers—but not the rest of HSG—into bankruptcy, Mr Hicks is turning to the courts to resolve the stalemate. MLB argues that since the deal would give creditors far more than the $75m guaranteed by the Rangers, a judge should approve the sale. The creditors, it points out, would still be free to seek further recompense from HSG’s remaining assets.
The creditors argue that this scheme would deprive them of their best chance of repayment. They say that too little of the sale price is being assigned to the Rangers, which belongs to HSG, and too much to the land, which does not. In effect, they are accusing Mr Hicks of selling them short by undervaluing the Rangers.
Moreover, the creditors claim that Mr Greenberg was not the highest bidder for the club, but that MLB encouraged a sale to him anyway. The league was certainly eager to keep Mr Ryan, a revered figure in Texas, involved with the team. Personalities may also have played a role: a rival bidder, Jim Crane, is thought to have annoyed MLB by backing out on a handshake agreement to buy the Houston Astros in 2008. Finally, the league has long sought to make sure new owners will respect the teams’ collective interests, such as restraining players’ salaries and keeping the clubs’ finances private. But HSG’s creditors have little interest in ensuring that future owners of the Rangers toe this line.
再者，虽然债权人声称Chuck Greenberg不是出价最高的球队竞标者，但大联盟却支持将球队卖给他。大联盟当然渴望Nolan Ryan（在德州颇孚众望）回到熟悉的游骑兵队。个人因素可能也扮演要角色︰竞标者之一Jim Crane被外界认为惹恼了大联盟，因为在2008年一项握手协议，原本要买下休斯顿航天员队却又事后反悔。最后，大联盟一直设法要确保球队新老板尊重各球团的集体利益，例如抑制球员薪资，并且不要公开球队的财务。但是，HSG集团的债权人对于保证游骑兵队的未来老板是否遵守这些规定没有兴趣。
The forthcoming bankruptcy proceedings will determine not just the fate of the Rangers but also the extent of the league’s power. If the court orders a new round of bidding or increases the lenders’ take, it will establish a precedent that MLB’s prerogatives cannot trump those of an insolvent club’s creditors. Conversely, if it approves the transaction, it would in effect grant the force of law to the league’s claim that it has an absolute right to choose its members. That may make it harder for teams to secure loans in the future. In either case, someone will cry foul.
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