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Nolan Ryan Sells 45% Stake in Ball Clubs

October 27, 2004|From Bloomberg News

Former pitching ace Nolan Ryan raised almost $14 million by selling a 45% stake in his minor-league baseball teams to investors including pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite.

Ryan Sanders Baseball attracted funds from 62 backers, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. They include Clemens, Pettite and Craig Biggio, all of whom play for the Houston Astros, as well as some Houston businessmen. The money will be used to buy a team and relocate another club.

The Round Rock, Texas-based company found investors with assistance from Don Sanders, personal money manager to the Ryan family since 1980 and a principal at Houston-based investment bank Sanders Morris Harris Inc. Reid Ryan, Nolan's son, said the family had received hundreds of calls over the years from friends, relatives and former ballplayers who wanted a stake.

"A lot of people get into these clubs because they love baseball," said the younger Ryan, who at age 32 is chief executive of Ryan Sanders Baseball. "A lot of people get into them because they want a return on their investment."

The Ryans, who already own one minor league team, will use about $10 million of the proceeds to buy the Edmonton Trappers of Canada. The Trappers are a triple-A team and have been part of the Pacific Coast League.

The Trappers will move to the Austin, Texas, suburb of Round Rock, where the team will play as the Round Rock Express. The company will use the remaining funds to relocate its current team in Round Rock to Corpus Christi, Texas, as a double-A team known as the Corpus Christi Hooks.

The family began raising money in March, setting a minimum investment of $10,000. Other investors in the limited partnership include Drayton McLane, owner of the Astros, and Robert McNair, owner of the National Football League's Houston Texans, Reid Ryan said. Most of the investors purchased stakes of less than 1%, and the largest holding by a limited partner doesn't exceed 3%, he said.

There are 160 minor-league teams that develop players for Major League Baseball. The minor league teams are divided by the size of the market they serve, with the largest ball clubs, playing in cities such as Las Vegas and Portland, Ore., designated as triple A. Teams that play in smaller cities are designated as double A and single A.

The Ryans, along with Don Sanders and his sons, hold a 55% stake in Ryan Sanders Baseball through an investment vehicle called Round Rock Baseball Inc. The Ryan family also owns Express Bank of Texas, which has about $41 million in assets.

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