Eddie Chiles' decision to sell controlling interest in the Texas Rangers stirred speculation Saturday that the American League club could move as far away as Tampa, Fla., or as nearby as Dallas.
Chiles announced Friday he has reached an "agreement in principle" to sell the Rangers to a group headed by New Jersey industrialist Bill Mack Jr. and Tampa businessman Frank Morsani. Mack and Morsani are members of a group attempting to bring major league baseball to the Tampa area.The Tampa Tribune reported Saturday that the Morsani-Mack group was prepared to pay $85 million for the Chiles' 58 percent interest in the Rangers, Arlington Stadium and 119 acres of land surrounding the park.
But Chiles, a 78-year-old Fort Worth oilman whose personal fortune has declined along with the Texas energy market, said he expects Gaylord Broadcasting Co., which owns a third of the team, to match the Morsani-Mack offer and keep the team in Texas.
"As far as I can tell, the long-term future for the franchise says that it will stay in Arlington," Chiles said Friday. "There is nothing in the contract that says it will. But I have questioned these people closely and they say they are not interested in moving the team.
Gaylord Broadcasting, which owns television superstation KTVT-TV, and its president, Edward L. Gaylord of Oklahoma City, have 30 days to exercise their option of first right of refusal and purchase the team.
Glenn Stinchcomb, a director of Gaylord Broadcasting and the Rangers, said Friday night that the Gaylord group has not had a chance to study Chiles' proposed deal with Mack and Morsani.
"The only thing we can say about is as soon as we have had a chance to study the proposal, we will make up our mind," Stinchcomb said. "We haven't had a chance to do that."
But even as the sale to the East Coast groups was announced, city leaders in Dallas were discussing plans to move the club from Arlington, which is midway between Dallas and Fort Worth, to a proposed new stadium in downtown Dallas.
George Schrader, chairman of the Central Dallas Association and a former Dallas city manager, told The Dallas Morning News that the CDA has presented a study of three potential downtown stadium sites to Gaylord and the Tampa Bay Baseball Group, which includes Morsani and Mack.
"The Rangers have a home, but it has been a recurrent idea that they might relocate," Schrader told the newspaper. "They appear to be looking for better circumstances. ... We want them."
The Rangers have expressed interest in leaving Arlington Stadium, a converted minor-league ballpark, because half of its seats are located in the bleachers and cannot be sold for premium prices.
Arlington Mayor Richard Greene last week complained that Dallas was trying to "steal" the Rangers from Arlington and wrote a letter of protest to the Dallas City Council.
Chiles purchased the team in 1980 from Bob Short, who had moved it from Washington, D.C., to Texas. Chiles is founder and chairman emeritus of the Western Company of North America, a Fort Worth oilfield services company that currently is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
He has been trying to sell his interest of the team for several years because of his limited cash flow.