Crane group officially takes control of Astros

Crane group officially takes control of Astros

HOUSTON -- With nothing remaining on the desk except for a good-luck note from Drayton McLane and a congratulatory bottle of champagne, Jim Crane walked into his new Union Station office high atop left field and took a moment to admire the view.

The Minute Maid Park roof was open, and morning rain showers had given way to rays of sunlight covering a well-manicured baseball field. After several unsuccessful attempts to buy a Major League Baseball club, Crane and his group of investors on Tuesday officially took ownership of the Astros.

Crane invited reporters into his office to share the view and his excitement.

"Being in my hometown and 10 minutes from my house and walking into the office and seeing the field is very, very special," he said. "I don't know if you want to watch a game there, and I don't know if anybody could hit a ball that far, but it's beautiful."

The Astros announced the group led by Crane, which bought the team for $610 million from McLane, was in control after the deal was officially completed Tuesday. The Astros will begin play in the American League West in 2013, which was a condition of the deal being finalized.

Crane's group, which consists of mostly local investors, becomes the fifth ownership group of the Houston franchise, which began play in the Major Leagues as the Colt 45s in 1962. McLane had owned the club since Nov. 9, 1992.

Crane will be the Astros owner and chairman, and George Postolos will serve as the club's president and CEO.

Postolos has previously served as president and CEO of the NBA's Houston Rockets, special assistant to NBA commissioner David Stern, and president of The Postolos Group LP, a dedicated sports advisory practice. Postolos has been an advisor to Crane on sports matters for more than four years. 

"We're very happy to have it over with," Crane said. "Drayton left us in good shape, and we're excited to be here."

All the bank transactions were completed by noon, and Crane immediately went to work. He met with several key members of the team's front-office staff and began the process of trying to build a winner from a baseball team that lost a club-record 106 games last season.

"We know we have a lot of work to do, and we sat down and met with the key staff today and outlined where we wanted to head and get their ideas and lay of the land," he said. "We asked them to kind of freshen up their new ideas and things they'd like us to get done and things that are working well and things that they don't think are working well.

"I told them to have a nice rest over the [Thanksgiving] holiday and we'll sit and visit with each one of them individually and see what changes we want to make."

Crane, who usually travels on Thanksgiving, will spend the holiday in Houston and said he will be in the office on Friday. When he was introduced as owner last week, he hinted he would begin to make some wholesale changes after Thanksgiving.

"It's very exciting and it's a big transition," Crane said. "We don't take that lightly, and we know we have a lot of hard work to do to get the team turned around."

Crane, a former college baseball pitcher at Central Missouri State University, is CEO and president of Crane Capital Group, Inc., is the owner of Champion Energy Services and owner of Crane Worldwide Logistics, a premier provider of customized transportation and logistics services. 

Crane said Tuesday it has been about four years since he first began trying to buy the Astros, coming close in 2008 before later attempting to purchase the Cubs and the Rangers. That's what made Tuesday so special for Crane, when he was finally welcomed into baseball's ownership fraternity.

"It's surreal," he said. "I played a lot of baseball when I was a kid and everybody has fond memories of baseball in a lot of different ways. Baseball is a special game, whether you're a fan or you played it. It does bring back a lot of special memories and it's great to be here. I'm a little in shock walking around, but we'll put our heads down and get to work."

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