MILWAUKEE (CBS/AP) – Baseball owners unanimously approved the sale of the Houston Astros from Drayton McLane to Jim Crane on Thursday, which will lead to the team moving from the NL Central to the AL West for the 2013 season.
The decision will give each league 15 teams, baseball’s first realignment since the Milwaukee Brewers switched from the AL to the NL after the 1997 season.
As part of the Astros’ agreement to switch leagues, the sale price was cut from $680 million to $615 million, a person at Thursday’s meeting told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details weren’t announced, Major League Baseball will make up part of the $65 million difference, paying McLane $35 million over three years, the person said.
Commissioner Bud Selig said owners also approved two additional wild-card teams for the postseason, meaning 10 of the 30 teams make the playoffs. Selig said he hopes the expanded playoffs can start next year, but he said the specifics are being worked out. The players’ association favors the move.
“You do things for a long period of time. The addition will really help us in the long run,” Selig said.
Owners also approved longtime San Francisco Giants executive Larry Baer to replace Bill Neukom as the team’s controlling owner.
In addition, MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said progress was made on a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the deal that expires Dec. 11.
Selig saluted McLane, who bought the team in 1992 for about $117 million. The Astros struggled mightily on the field last season, losing 106 games.
“Drayton should have a wonderful legacy of what he did for the Astros, got them a new ballpark and did all these things,” Selig said. “He sure left a much better franchise than we he came in.”
Crane founded a Houston-based logistics company in 2008. He is chairman and chief executive officer of Crane Capital, a private equity fund company. Two years ago, he was attempting to buy the Chicago Cubs and last summer he tried to purchase 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.
In 1997, employees of Crane’s former company, Eagle USA Airfreight, filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying there was discrimination. Eagle settled the case in 2005 for about $900,000.
Selig acknowledged the long vetting process.
“I’m very comfortable today telling you he has put together a good group in Houston,” the commissioner said.
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