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Meet the big name partners of new Astros owner Jim Crane: Other power players involved in the deal

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The other big money partners in Jim Crane's new Astros ownership group are becoming unmasked. Here's John Eddie Williams. John Eddie Williams, Sheridan Williams Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
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Jeff Hines — CEO of the real estate empire is another. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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For some of the investors, it's not about a faith in baseball and the Astros as much as it is a faith in Jim Crane. Photo by Caroline Gallay
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Jim Crane with his wife Franci at Minute Maid Park. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com

Jim Crane is the face, the driving force and the key negotiator in the deal that has Drayton McLane set to hand over ownership of the Houston Astros on Monday (pending the approval of Major League Baseball).

But Crane is hardly the only big-money player and prominent Houstonian involved in the deal. CultureMap has learned that Bill Morgan, one of the co-founders of Kinder Morgan; Jeff Hines, CEO of the Hines real estate empire; and John Eddie Williams, the trial lawyer who made his national name as one of the Texas Tobacco Five litigators, are among the investors in the new ownership group. Energy trader Michael Gamson is also an investor.

A source familiar with the negotiations tells CultureMap that there are 14 shares in the new ownership deal. Crane is buying several shares himself, some of the other investors are splitting shares. There will be around a dozen investors in total.

The $680 million purchase price that's been previously reported by KRTK Ch. 13 is accurate that source familiar with the negotiations, and another in New York who's seen an outline of the deal, tell CultureMap. But it will not rise higher than that and could be brought down slightly when the deal is officially completed.

While Crane is a lifelong baseball nut who credits his time as an ace pitcher at Division II University of Central Missouri in the 1970s with setting the stage for his business success later in life, some of the other partners in the new ownership group are completely focused on the business opportunity of buying the team rather than any hardball romance.

The Astros' new regional sports network, which will begin broadcasting in 2012 — the one that McLane long pushed for — is a big part of the lure for these partners. 

"I'm not a baseball fan," one of the investors told CultureMap on condition of anonymity. "I don't go to the games. I'm actually doing it because of Jim Crane.

"I'm betting on Jim. I believe in him. I think he's a good manager. He has a good track record."

Crane started his first company (Eagle Global Logistics) with one employee and one truck. By the time he sold his share of Eagle for more than $300 million, it had more than 11,000 employees and offices around the world.

He is now the chairman of Crane Worldwide Logistics, another freight shipping company he founded with an international reach.

McLane bought the Astros for $117 million in 1992 and is set to get a return nearly six times that in this agreed-upon deal.

No wonder Morgan, Hines and Eddie Williams are putting their own big money into play along with Crane.

Crane will take center stage at Monday's press conference, but those who know him expect his hand-chosen new Astros CEO George Postolos will soon after emerge as the most consistent public face of the franchise with Crane largely avoiding the spotlight whenever possible. The new owner has yet to give a single interview since the news of his agreement to buy the team first came out.

Editor's note: Don't miss CultureMap's story on the 10 things you don't know about new Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

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