The Chicago Cubs and their storied legacy of losing are set to change hands, with the billionaire Ricketts family emerging as the favored bidder to buy the team from Tribune Co. for a landmark price of $900 million.Let me just diverge from the main idea here.
The family, which has Chicago connections but made its fortune building a discount stock brokerage in Omaha, confirmed Thursday night that it has been selected by Tribune Co. to begin exclusive negotiations to buy the team, Wrigley Field and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet, a regional cable network.
Sources put the value of the bid at about $900 million. That works out to $9 million for each season since the team's last World Series title in 1908.
"My family and I are Cubs fans," Tom Ricketts, the family's point person in the Cubs purchase, said. "We share the goal of Cubs fans everywhere to win a World Series and build the consistent championship tradition that the fans deserve."
Tribune Co.'s selection of the Ricketts' bid culminates a nearly two-year auction process that was complicated by the global financial crisis and, more recently, the media company's bankruptcy filing. But the deal isn't sealed yet.
The family will have to hammer out a final agreement with Tribune Co. and secure financing amid the worst credit markets since the Depression. Once a contract is inked, the deal must be approved by 23 of Major League Baseball's 30 owners. Cubs officials have said they hope to have the new owners in place by the start of the season in April.
I look forward to seeing what the probably new owners would do for the Cubs. The Tribune Company hasn't entirely been bad owners because they were able to get the Cubs into post-season play. Even under their ownership the Cubs were closer to the World Series than they had been since maybe 1945.
Let's not neglect that the Cubs made their first appearance in post-season play in 1984. Of course in those days if you one a divison title you were only one-step away from the World Series. By 2003, if you win a division title you only take two-steps towards the World Series. With the Tribune Company we've had some exciting years, especially in this decade.
BTW, I want to talk about the Wrigley's. I really wonder what happened. The Wrigley family owned the Chicago Cubs before the Tribune bought them in the 1980s. I don't know when the family bought the Cubs but the Wrigley's weren't about to get much out of the Cubs. Maybe some World Series appearances up until 1945, but not much beyond that. I should note the Wrigleys owned the chewing gum brand.
You know I don't really talk about sports here. On the other hand the most compelling story about sports to me is the business side. Why do some teams do well and other don't? What makes one team more marketable than another? Why are some teams hotter properties whether or not they win or lose?
I follow this more intently than what happens on the court, field or ice. If I was a sports owner my goal would not only be to win, but also to make as much money as I can. Of course some owners may have the money is no object approach while others might penny pinch and they're probably the ones who'll less likely become winners.
Also related is this column by the Tribune's Rick Morrisey: "Now's not time for new Cubs owners to start thinking outside the suggestion box".