Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pittsburgh Attorney Buys Rangers...Maybe

Chuck Greenberg, 47, of Upper St. Clair, has a rep as a facilitator. After being introduced around the local sports scene by Pittsburgh player rep and boyhood bud Tom Reich, Greenberg dove into the industry.

The Pepper Hamilton partner brokered Mario Lemieux's deal to acquire the Penguins in 1999, and represented the teams' interest again in 2007, dotting the i's on Consol Arena's paperwork after a throw-down with the state, county, and city suits.

He still serves on the board of directors of the Mario Lemieux Foundation and on the executive committee of the Mario Lemieux Celebrity Golf Invitational.

The attorney was also involved with the sale of the NHL Florida Panthers and a couple of minor league baseball teams, the Salem Avalanche and Fort Wayne Wizards. Geez, he even represents Mark Madden!

He must enjoy the field. Greenberg was the owner of three minor-league baseball franchises, and now he's 45 days away from adding the Texas Rangers to his toy box.

The Upper St. Clair lawyer began his ownership skein in 2002, when he bought the Altoona Curve. Greenberg formed a group of about a dozen investors, including Lemieux and the Steelers Jerome Bettis, to buy the Curve. Don't ask the price; mouthpieces are good at writing up things like non-disclosure clauses - and he did.

Under his direction, the Curve set a string of attendance records and was the Minor League franchise of the year in 2006. He helped get the team a new ballyard.

Greenberg was known as an aggressive, accessible and innovative owner with a dash of PT Barnum; he featured events like "Frivolous Lawsuit Night" in Blair County Park. Heck, he even brought in the Pens' Paul Steigerwald to be the radio announcer when the NHL had its lock-out year.

And Greenberg was hands-on as an owner. He spent many a night on 22, driving between his downtown offices after work to Altoona.

Greenberg sold the Curve just before the 2009 season. But he still owns two Single-A teams, the State College Spikes (a Pirate affiliate) and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (a Brave affiliate). His group cut a deal with Penn State to build a new shared stadium, Medlar Field, for State College's nine. Shiny new venues seem to be a specialty of his.

Hey, he even threw his hat in the ring for the Pirate presidency in 2007 after Kevin McClatchy took his bow, but Frank Coonelly got the gig in what many thought was a two-man race.

Instead of being bummed, he just set his sights a little higher, hooked up with Nolan Ryan, and joined the six-man chase for Tom Hicks' Ranger team.

After tweaking their offer - and some think the second group standing, led by Jim Crane, was still alive only to drive up the price - and bringing on Hicks as a minority partner (attorneys don't seem very concerned with that conflict of interest thingie), Greenberg and Ryan have a 45-day window to negitiate a final price and come up with the coin.

Neither Greenberg nor Ryan is a deep-pocketed dude, the North Texas ownership group they cobbled together is said to be kinda bulky, and they have to come up with between $510-$550M to buy the Texas club, no easy task in today's economy.

But Chuck Greenberg is on the last lap of long process. His next key date is January 13-14, 2010, when the owners meet in Paradise Valley, Arizona. If his gang can raise the do-re-mi by then, the owners will vote on letting them join the brothership.

Somewhere, Mark Cuban must be shaking his head.

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