SBD/Issue 96/Facilities & Venues

Sam Zell Leaning Toward Selling Wrigley Separately From Cubs

Tribune Co. Owner Could Sell
Cubs, Wrigley Field Separately
Selling Wrigley Field to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority "has emerged as the favored strategy" of Tribune Co. Owner Sam Zell, but he "risks thinning the ranks of prospective Cubs bidders ... by unloading the ballpark and team separately," according to Colias & Saphir of CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS. Tribune and state officials are negotiating a deal "that would have the state float bonds to finance the stadium's acquisition and future renovation." Debt would be retired via rent payments by the new team owner, as well as income from selling naming rights. While Tribune and state officials insist that "no taxpayer dollars would be used," prospective bidders "fear being saddled with decades of rent payments ... for a ballpark they'll never own." A member of one Cubs' bidding group said, "That is money not going ... for the benefit of the team or fans" (CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS, 2/4 issue).

WHAT'S IN A NAME? CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS' David Sterrett cites sources as saying that it makes "little business sense" for the Wrigley Co. to pay for naming rights to Wrigley Field, as it "probably wouldn't boost gum sales." Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center business professor Dennis Howard said, "Wrigley would be pretty crazy to pay the Cubs for the naming rights." He added the company "doesn't use the ballpark in marketing itself, and having its name on it isn't a benefit because the Wrigley brand is so well-known already." Cubs Chair Crane Kenney recently said that Wrigley should pay for its naming rights to the ballpark. A Wrigley spokesperson declined to comment, and a spokesperson for Zell said that Wrigley "has long received free advertising from the ballpark and that Tribune is looking at all possible options to raise money" (CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS, 2/4 issue).

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