The sale of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago could be nearing its completion, with the winning bidder possibly being selected within 7-10 days, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Tribune Co., and its owner, Sam Zell, are said to be nearing a decision between the three finalists, Thomas Ricketts, chief executive of Chicago investment bank Incapital LLC and the son of Joseph Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp, Marc Utay, a managing partner with New York-based private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners LLC; and Chicago real estate executive Hersh Klaff.
The report of a possible decision falls in line with Cubs chairman Crane Kenny saying that he hoped that the deal would be completed by Spring Training.
The sale, once believed to be in pegged at over $1 billion is now likely to fall below that figure as the downturn in the economy and credit markets have taken a beating since Zell announced that the assets were up for sale. Predictions now are for the sale to garner between $850 and $930 million.
The sale falls against the backdrop of the Tribune Co. filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The Cubs, and associated assets in Wrigley Field and the stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago, were not part of the filing leading many to believe that the sale can go forward without disruption from the courts.
Even with a bidder selected, the process of finalizing the sale could be tricky given the state of the credit markets. Zell has desired a sales deal that allows him to avoid a considerable amount of taxes by retaining a small share in the Cubs, while placing the new owners in a debt-laden position.
And, once the sale has been finalized, 75 percent of the 30 MLB owners must approve the deal, setting up one more hurdle before the transfer of ownership is completed.
Since mid-September of last year, The Biz of Baseball has heard that the Ricketts family was leading the pack in the quest to own one of baseballâ€™s most treasured clubs. While that was before the collapse of the mortgage industry, and the ensuing downward spiral on Wall St., it is still believed that Ricketts has the strongest chance of winning the day.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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