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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Greenberg ready for new challenge

Chuck Greenberg has been a Minor League owner for the past eight years in Altoona and State College, Pa., and in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

As an attorney operating out of Pittsburgh, he was instrumental in putting together deals that helped NHL great Mario Lemieux buy the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1999, and he assisted another group in their purchase of the Florida Panthers in 2001.

His Minor League teams have won awards for marketing and promotion.

His company, Greenberg Sports Group, also provides management, consulting and marketing services to the sports industry all across the country.

All of that was like a nice stroll through the foothills compared to the mountain range he approaches now.

He is on the verge of taking the reins as managing general partner and CEO of the Texas Rangers, a ballclub that has appeared in the playoffs three times in 38 years, has not yet won a postseason series and is one of three franchises in search of that elusive first Fall Classic appearance (the Mariners and Nationals, formerly the Expos, are the other two).

Greenberg, undaunted by the task at hand, refers to it as a great opportunity. "I think it could be one of the great success stories in professional baseball and all of sports," Greenberg said on Wednesday evening. "It's the perfect opportunity. The vitality and the quality of life in the DFW [Dallas-Fort Worth] area and surrounding communities are tremendous. It's a wonderful place to live and do business.

"In this area, there is a tremendous amount of pent-up enthusiasm for the Rangers waiting to explode. They may not have a history of World Series championships, but there is a great deal of hope and passion. With a little help and tender love and care, it can be pushed over the top, and hopefully our group can push it over the top."

His mission is clear. "The goal is simple: win," Greenberg said. "Win the division, get through the League Championship Series and win the World Series. Our intention is to make smart decisions to achieve that goal.

"Fortunately, the Rangers have a great foundation. If additional moves need to be made, we want to be smart about it but we will make the moves. We want to win a championship."

Greenberg heads a group of approximately 12 investors who have gained exclusive negotiating rights to purchase the team from owner Tom Hicks.

Club president Nolan Ryan also is one of those investors and will remain in his current role of overseeing the day-to-day operations of the franchise. Hicks will remain with the organization as a minority partner.

The sides will spend the next 30 days or so negotiating the final agreement and then present it to Major League Baseball for approval.

If all goes well, the new ownership will be in place by Opening Day and the new boss will be a 48-year-old attorney from the Pittsburgh area who grew up a Pirates fan who was devastated when Roberto Clemente was killed in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972.

"I think people are going to get to know Chuck really well," Ryan said. "He'll certainly be actively involved, and with his history of sports law and owning three Minor League teams, I think he has a real understanding of baseball. That will make it much easier. He'll fit right into the community."

The formal sale will not be complete in time to have an impact on the Rangers' offseason moves. But if it is done by Opening Day, the new group promises to bring the financial flexibility necessary to make the in-season moves the Rangers were unable to pull off last season while competing near the top of the AL West.

"If we need to make a move leading up to the Trade Deadline, money will not stop us from doing so," Greenberg said.

Greenberg has succeeded in the marketing, promotional and business side of the game. He insisted Ryan will have complete control of overseeing the Rangers' baseball operations.

"That's not my role," Greenberg said. "I have the utmost confidence in Nolan."

Greenberg first expressed interest in the Rangers as far back as May when dealing with David McDavid, a Fort Worth businessman. McDavid declined to get involved but led Greenberg to Ryan, and the two quickly formed a partnership. Greenberg said he would have dropped out if Ryan had not agreed to be a part of his group.

Greenberg spent the summer looking into the possibility of buying the Rangers. He went to 16 games at the Ballpark in Arlington and anonymously talked to as many fans as possible.

He knows about the heat of Texas and does not see it as a troubling obstacle. "If it's compelling, you don't mind the heat," Greenberg said. "Our job is to make Texas Rangers baseball a compelling, emotional experience."

He loves the Ballpark but knows it needs, in his words, "a face-lift." He said the addition of the electronic ribbon scoreboards were great, but he strongly believes the Ballpark needs a large central video board.

The Ballpark has always had a video board on the roof of the right-field porch, and a small one was added on the left-field out-of-town scoreboard. "If you look at ballparks and how they've evolved over the past 15 years, it wasn't a big deal in 1994. But it is today," Greenberg said.

He has other ideas but said the new group will move slowly on some of those and will explore new ones from the get-go. Greenberg plans to spend his first season in Texas listening to the fans and getting an idea of what they want.

"In this organization, there will be no walls between us and the fans," Greenberg said. "One of our most important skills is to be good listeners, and we're going to do a lot of listening during the season. We're going to be adjusting on the fly in 2010, but we're going to be flying out of the gate in the fall of 2010 going into the offseason and the next season.

"Whatever it takes, we will do it."

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