SBD/Issue 163/Franchises

Tribune May Delay Cubs Sale Because Of Wrigley Sale Talks

Tribune Co. Could Delay Sale Of
Cubs Because Of Wrigley Field Talks
The Tribune Co. is indicating "privately that it might delay selling the [Cubs] if the inevitable need for costly repairs at Wrigley Field ... discounts the bids it fields for the ballclub," according to sources cited by Phil Rosenthal of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Sources involved in the bidding process said that "word is filtering back to ... potential buyers that Tribune Co. will hold onto the team rather than sell at distressed prices" if potential buyers drop their bids too much "in anticipation of having to pay for Wrigley Field renovations themselves." While analysts suggest that Tribune Co. this week "may have bought time on a Cubs sale" with its $650M sale of Newsday to Cablevision, the deal "merely relieved financial pressure on the media company for this year, not forever." Rosenthal reports despite rejecting the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA) latest proposal for Wrigley earlier this week, the two sides are still in negotiations. Neither side has "completely ruled out an ISFA deal of some sort for the ballpark," despite a report yesterday that Tribune Co. had decided to package the Cubs and Wrigley in a sale. Separate sales would "potentially maximize the return for Tribune Co." Meanwhile, Tribune Co. has sent the Cubs' financial data to MLB for "review covering both scenarios with and without ownership of the ballpark included." But sources said that the finances have not yet been forwarded to MLB-approved bidders (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/14).

STILL NEGOTIATING: ISFA Chair James Thompson yesterday confirmed that he is "still negotiating with the Cubs and still hopeful the state can find a way to buy and renovate Wrigley Field with 'no taxes of any kind' that is acceptable" to Tribune Co. Chair Sam Zell (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/14). Chicago Tribune reporter Fred Mitchell said of ISFA-Tribune Co. talks, "It sounds to me it needs to be tweaked a great deal to satisfy Sam Zell.” Chicago Tribune reporter David Haugh: “It would seem to be cleaner to sell the Cubs and Wrigley Field as one. ... The bigger issue that people are wondering about is the naming rights and then renovation” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” CSN, 5/13).

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