Astros owner Drayton McLane has granted exclusive negotiating rights to purchase the team to a group that includes former United States Olympic Committee chief Harvey Schiller and an unidentified New York investment banker.
However, McLane on Monday said no deal is close. He granted the group negotiating rights through the end of January.
“They asked, if they could put together a group for the right price, would I listen? I told them sure,” McLane said. “They asked if they could have exclusive negotiating rights until the end of January. I said sure. I haven’t heard one word from them since then.
“If they had a hot prospect, I would assume I would have heard something by now. I don’t expect anything to happen.”
McLane declined to name any of the individuals involved, but two people familiar with the negotiations indicated Schiller is part of the group. He recently was part of a group that briefly pursued the Texas Rangers. People with ties to the industry are skeptical that he will be able to find enough investors to satisfy McLane’s asking price, believed to be around $650 million.
Schiller, 70, also is a former president of the International Baseball Federation and CEO of Global Options Group, a security investigation company. He could not be reached for comment.
His long résumé includes 24 years as an Air Force pilot, combat service in Vietnam, and a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Michigan. During a long career in sports, he has served as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, USOC chief and head of sports at Turner Broadcasting.
McLane purchased the Astros for $117 million in 1993.
“It has to be the right trust,” McLane said. “As I’ve told you before, owning a baseball team involves a sacred trust with a city.”
Under McLane’s ownership, the Astros have won four National League Central titles, as well as an NL pennant in 2005, when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in their only World Series appearance.
Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig on Monday said he does not believe the Astros will be changing owners soon.
“Drayton told me he hasn’t heard a peep since the original inquiry,” Selig said in response to a report suggesting a sale is imminent. “This is a bogus story.“
Last month, the Chronicle reported McLane came close to selling the team in 2008, reaching a “handshake deal” with Houston-based businessman Jim Crane. Crane backed out of the deal, McLane said.
Also last month, McLane said he didn’t want to sell the Astros, “but when people call, you listen.”
McLane, 73, reiterated as much Monday.
“We haven’t put the team up for sale,” McLane said. “We’re not soliciting buyers. We’re doing this for estate-planning purposes. But we’ve owned the Astros for 18 years and would be happy to plug along another 18 years.
“I don’t think in a difficult economy there’s going to be a sale. How many franchises have been sold recently? I doubt seriously if anything is going to occur.”