Cubs go to Ricketts


A final contract still has to be worked out – and then there’s approval by the Major League Baseball owners and a federal bankruptcy court – but the Ricketts family confirmed that it has won the bidding battle for the Chicago Cubs. The sale of the team and Wrigley Field is expected to put about $900 million in the coffers of Tribune Company. The baseball team was put up for sale before the company’s Chapter 11 filing and the management team headed by CEO Sam Zell appears to have no interest in selling any of the core newspapers, television stations or WGN-AM Chicago.

“My family and I are Cubs fans,” said Chicago financier Tom Ricketts, who is leading the family’s bidding effort. The Ricketts family founded TD Ameritrade. “We share the goal of Cubs fans everywhere to win a World Series and build the consistent championship tradition that the fans deserve,” he said in a statement announcing that the family had gotten exclusive rights to negotiate a contract to buy the team.

There could yet be issues to deal with. The Ricketts family bid was said not to have the biggest total price. However, it had the most cash, needing financing of only about half of the total in the current tight financing marketplace. It remains to be seen whether any Tribune creditors will press for the bankruptcy court to insist on a higher bid. After all, the money is really going to wind up with Tribune’s creditors.

Also, the team sale has to win approval from 23 of the 30 MLB owners. At this point it does not appear that the Ricketts family will be as controversial as, say, Mark Cuban.

By the way, Tribune Company bought the Cubs from the Wrigley family in 1981 for $20.5 million. Not a bad return for 28 years.

RBR/TVBR observation: While the Cubs didn’t get to the $1 billion mark that had been discussed many months ago when the effort to sell the team began, the pricing held up pretty well – a lot better than the general economy. Rich people are still willing to put a lot of cash on the table to have bragging rights to owning a sports team.