Group interested in Astros identified

Group interested in Astros identified

HOUSTON -- One day after Astros owner Drayton McLane acknowledged he had granted a 30-day exclusive negotiating window to sell the team to a New York investment banking company, a report has identified the group as Great Court Capital.

According to a report by KRIV-TV in Houston, the New York-based company's effort is headed by lead negotiator Mark Isaacson and the group also includes former United States Olympic Committee chief Harvey Schiller.

"Dr. Schiller has known Drayton McLane a number of years, and he has nothing but the utmost respect for what he's done with the Astros and the Houston community," Joe Favorito, a spokesman for Schiller, said in a statement to MLB.com. "With regards to negotiations of a sale or a potential sale, it's not appropriate for us to comment."

McLane on Monday downplayed the agreement, saying it wasn't an indication a sale of the team was imminent and maintained he's not actively trying to sell the team. He said the exclusive negotiating window ends at the end of January.

"We've said from time to time people come to us, and they asked, 'If we can raise a certain amount of money, would you be interested in selling the Houston Astros?' And I said, 'Sure,' " McLane said Monday. "We gave them an exclusive window."

Schiller, 70, is the former president of Turner Sports, executive director and secretary general of the USOC and former commissioner of the Southeastern Conference.

McLane said he doesn't have any other parties currently interested in buying the team. Last month, he revealed he had a handshake agreement with Houston businessman Jim Crane following the 2008 season to sell the team, but said the deal fell through because of Crane's concerns about the economy.

McLane bought the Astros for $117 million in 1993 and has seen the franchise advance to the playoffs six times, including its first World Series berth in 2005. The Astros moved into Minute Maid Park in 2000 and last year celebrated their 10th season in the downtown ballpark. Forbes last year estimated the club is worth $445 million.

Last season, the Astros had a club-record payroll of around $107 million and finished in fifth place in the National League Central. McLane said this year's payroll will be around $95 million.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.