Sam Zell needs your money, and he’s looking in every nook and cranny to get it.
By now, you’ve heard that Zell (the now owner of the Tribune Co., ergo the Cubs) fully intends on selling off Wrigley Field, thus breaking apart two assets (the Cubs and Wrigley) that are synonymous with each other. He's doing so in an attempt to gain more revenues than the selling of the two as a package would have otherwise garnered.
But, while he does own the Cubs and Wrigley, Zell is looking to maximize the assets to squeeze even more out of the Friendly Confines.
Zell is asking for more night games to be played at Wrigley, and is looking to continue the success that the Jimmy Buffett and Police concerts did by getting two more in this year.
The Cubs reached a 12-year agreement in 2004 that allowed them to phase in 12 more night games to an eventual 30 games per season. While they are now coming up on a third of the way through the agreement, the Cubs want to amend it. As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times:
"We play roughly 25 fewer night games than the league does. The average is 54. We don't need that many. There isn't a number on the table that [Ald.] Tom Tunney and I are arm-wrestling over. But it's one of those things we're looking at to see if it makes sense for all parties concerned," said [Crane Kenney, the Tribune Co. senior vice president who oversees the Cubs].
Kenney noted that team officials have bent over backward over the last four years "to build a relationship with the community we didn't have before." It paved the way for a 1,791-seat bleacher expansion, the night game phase-in and outdoor concerts to go more smoothly than anticipated.
"We . . . pay for traffic aides, garbage collection and parking support. We believe . . . our partnership with the community is working. It's not perfect. There are things we can do better. But, it's working. . . . The same dialogue with the community would have to take place to go forward," Kenney said.
How is the Lake View Citizens Council taking the proposal? David Winner, the president of the council said, “Thirty night games is enough for this neighborhood. I see no reason to increase it. ... I can't see it happening.”
Sam Zell is a business man, and not a business man interested Major League Baseball. Zell's whole direction is one of making money with his investments, either by selling assets or maximizing them. After all, Tribune is in $13 billion worth of debt. He is, no doubt, interested in getting his cash flow working to address that issue.
He's also a man that seems more than slightly annoyed by the processes and pace by which Major League Baseball works when it comes to selling their franchises. And, to rub salt in Bud Selig's eyes, he doesn't seem to care that the Cubs represent a cornerstone to baseball and one of incredible historical value.
For Zell, he shelled out to buy Tribune, and from that point on, if you have a problem with how he does business, that's too bad. As he said on CNBC's Squawk Box earlier this week, "Excuse me for being sarcastic, but the idea of a debate occurring over what I should do with my asset leaves me somewhat questioning the integrity of the debate. There’s a lot of people who would like to buy the Cubs and would like to buy the Cubs under their terms and conditions and, unfortunately, they have to deal with me.”
In other words, MLB, butt out.
For fans of baseball -- and surely as the sun rises tomorrow, MLB thinks the same -- the sooner Sam Zell is removed from all things Chicago Cubs the better. While other corporate ownerships have been chastised by some fans for not doing enough to improve the team for the future, Zell isn't interested in anything more than getting as much money out of the Cubs and Wrigley as he can, and doing so yesterday would be nice, if you don't mind.
Hey, it's his toy/asset, so he's got that right. But, sports teams are different than oil futures, or junk bonds, or for that matter, newspaper companies. Apparently, Zell isn't interested in making friends in the baseball business along the way, so I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years he has to pay to get into a game at Wrigley... if he ever decides to take an interest in baseball.
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