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News and information about the sale of all or part of any of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs.

Debt Structure in Cubs Sale Has MLB Worried PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 10 September 2008 07:56

 


 

With Sam Zell and the Tribune Co. looking for a tax-avoidance deal with the sale of the Chicago Cubs, MLB is worried that the buyer will have to borrow extensively, thus saddling the club with too much debt.

MLB has a firm debt-prevention policy in place in the 60/40 rule (a club cannot carry debt 40% above the asset value), but a deal for the Cubs may have MLB owners looking even closer at the sale structure given the franchise's iconic stature within the game. A debt-loaded Cubs organization would place constraints on matters such as player payroll.

The problem for Sam Zell and Tribune is that an outright sale would mean paying taxes in excess of $400 million. Tribune purchased the Cubs in 1981 for $20.5 million. With the combined sale of the Cubs, Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in ComcastSports Chicago, the price should easily exceed $1 billion. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Zell will be looking to get creative with the deal.

Instead, he wants to create what's known as a leveraged partnership between the buyer and Tribune to own the team. The partnership would borrow money to buy the team, and the proceeds from the loans would go to Tribune. The media company would retain a small stake in the partnership, less than 5 percent, giving it some exposure to the loans.

Under the terms of a leveraged partnership, only borrowed money can be distributed tax-free. Consequently, in some of these deals as much as 90 percent of the purchase price is financed with debt to maximize the cash payout, Willens said.

"When you set up a structure like that, it's costly," said a source close to one of the five remaining bidders who asked to remain anonymous. "The more debt you put on it, the more expensive it is. The more leverage, the more scrutiny you get from baseball."

Because of the leveraged partnership arrangement, the deal is not considered a “sale” even if Tribune receives money up-front. In doing so, Tribune would avoid capital gains taxes. Any sale completed this way would, for purposes of taxation, then occur 10 years into the future, or 2018, if the deal is completed this year.

It will be interesting to see how the owners respond to a deal structured this way – a deal that won’t be known until the purchase agreement is completed. With the tax-avoidance structure, the potential for a Sam Zell vs. MLB showdown could be in the offing. Look for the sale to occur sometime shortly after the World Series and possible approval by the 30 owners sometime shortly thereafter.

MORE ON THE SALE OF THE CHICAGO CUBS


Maury Brown

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.

Don't forget to register and log in on The Biz of Baseball site to get updates via your in-box, and see information only logged in members can see.

 

 
Final Bids on Cubs Sale Due Late Sept., Early Oct. PDF Print E-mail
MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 05 September 2008 13:56
Sale of the Cubs

The final bids for the purchase of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, and a twenty-five percent stake in ComcastSports Chicago will be due at the end of September, or early October, according to a report from Reuters. Beginning this week, management presentations from the Tribune Co. and the Cubs will be made to the finalists, further outlining the assets values of the three components in the deal.

Those presentations to the five bidding groups will take approximately 2 weeks to make.

The five groups include Thomas Ricketts, chief executive of Chicago investment bank Incapital LLC and son of the founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp; Internet billionaire Mark Cuban; Marc Utay, a managing partner with New York-based private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners LLC; and Chicago real estate executive Hersh Klaff.

As reported late last week, the group with former Nationals bidder Fred Malek and MVC Capital Inc Chairman Michael Tokarz is not part of the final five bidders. As reported by Reuters, groups are marrying up trying to solidify their positions:

Sports Properties Acquisition Corp, which had been linked to the Malek group, is now in talks to possibly join the Cuban or Klaff groups, said a fourth source.

Any final announcement, even if arrived at during the early part of October, would most likely not be announced until after the World Series. MLB is notorious for not wishing to upstage their premier event with any announcements that might distract from the postseason.

MORE ON THE SALE OF THE CHICAGO CUBS


Maury Brown

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.

Don't forget to register and log in on The Biz of Baseball site to get updates via your in-box, and see information only logged in members can see.

 
Ricketts Up, Others Down in Bidding for Cubs PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Sunday, 31 August 2008 10:28

 

Thomas Ricketts' stock is on the rise, while two other bidders see their chances sinking in the on-going drama that is the sale of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, and a twenty-five percent stake in Comcast Sports Chicago.

With five approved bidders remaining, a marriage between two of the groups has already resulted in a divorce.

When a group led by Fred Malek, a Washington private equity investor, and Michael Tokarz, a New York businessman who is an Illinois native, was said to be joining the Sports Properties Acquisition Corp. (SPA) group, it was seen as a move to form a group that would have deep pockets and match MLB’s preferred ownership profile. Hall of Famer Henry Aaron and former Senator Jack Kemp are the figureheads of Sports Properties Acquisition. Now, both groups may be out of the running, although SPA looks ready to play the wild card. As reported by the Chicago Tribune:

Andrew Murstein, vice chairman of Sports Properties Acquisition, declined to comment on why the two bidders declined to team up. But with $216 million sitting in the bank, the company could make an attractive partner for another bidder, Murstein said.

"We consider ourselves a free agent and feel whichever group we join, if any, will be in a very good position to win," said Murstein, who runs a New York investment firm. He added that the company has been approached by three other bidders but declined to name them.

Malek, a former bidder for the Washington Nationals, and Tokarz could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Thomas Ricketts' bid appears to be gaining steam. With deep pockets (his father, Joe, is the founder of Ameritrade), and strong family ties, the Ricketts bid fits MLB ownership mold (see the approval of the Lerner family for the Washington Nationals as a recent example).

Others in the mix for the Cubs include Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, Chicago real estate executive Hersch Klaff, and a group led by New York private equity investors Marc Utay and Leo Hindery, Jr.

MORE ON THE SALE OF THE CHICAGO CUBS


Maury Brown

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.

Don't forget to register and log in on The Biz of Baseball site to get updates via your in-box, and see information only logged in members can see.

 
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