SBD/Issue 235/Franchises

Court Filings Show Ricketts Pushed Tribune Co. For Cubs Deal

Judge Has Agreed To Expedite
Procedures Regarding Cubs Sale
The Ricketts family in late July "gave Tribune Co. a deadline of Aug. 7 to finalize terms" for a sale of the Cubs, and the company said that it "would try to meet that time frame but also continued to negotiate" with a group led by Clarion Capital Partners LLC Managing Partner Marc Utay, according to court documents cited by Ameet Sachdev of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Details of the negotiations are "contained in hundreds of court documents" Tribune filed yesterday in bankruptcy court in connection with the company's agreement to sell 95% of the Cubs, Wrigley Field and related assets to the Ricketts family for about $800M. Tribune lawyers in the court filings "outlined a two-step process for court approval, which includes having the team file for bankruptcy at a later date." The company wants the Cubs to be "in bankruptcy for just a few days," as Cubs Chair Crane Kenney in court documents argues that an "extended stay in court could damage the Cubs' baseball operations." The judge presiding over the case agreed to "expedite procedures regarding the sale," and an "initial hearing is scheduled for Monday." Documents also indicate that Tribune "faces paying the Ricketts family" a $20M fee if the deal does not close in Q4 of this year. The filings confirmed that WGN will retain broadcast rights to "certain Cubs games on radio and television" through the '22 season (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/25).

WITH THE WIND: SI.com's Jon Heyman wrote we "can't be sure how the Ricketts family will do with the Cubs," but it has "got to be better" than Tribune Chair Sam Zell. The Cubs' front office was "hamstrung this summer by their ownership situation." Zell "isn't responsible for the previous 100 years of failure, but this one is on him" (SI.com, 8/24). In Chicago, Carol Slezak writes if Tom Ricketts "really wants to build a winner, there's a readily available blueprint he can follow" with the White Sox. Slezak: "Tribune Co. never figured out how to build a franchise that could be competitive for the long term. They never put a system in place. They never learned how to win." But the White Sox "figured it out," and Ricketts "could do far worse than to follow their lead" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/25).

BASEBALL SENSE:  ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski in an open letter to the Ricketts family wrote, "This isn't just any team you're purchasing. ... What it doesn't need is an owner who thinks of the Cubs as simply an investment, another expensive car to park in the portfolio garage. It needs someone who has business and baseball sense." The Cubs should not "pink slip" GM Jim Hendry, and if Kenny is "going to stay, he has to quit with the jock-sniffing." Wojciechowski: "He's the chairman, not the clubbie. Someone needs to tell him he's not a player and that this isn't fantasy camp" (ESPN.com, 8/24). In Illinois, Bruce Miles notes Hendry "probably is safe for next year" because the team "won't change hands until November, at the earliest, and the Cubs' organizational meetings and the GM meetings will have taken place by then." But the Ricketts family should "hire a baseball man to be team president." While former Padres CEO Sandy Alderson's name "has been out there," Braves President John Schuerholz and former Phillies GM Pat Gillick are "no-nonsense men who built champions" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 8/25).

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