January 22, 2009

Report: Cubs choose their new owner

The owner of the Chicago Cubs has decided to sell the team to a group headed by local businessman Thomas Ricketts, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday.

An eventual transaction, however, still has several hurdles to clear -- including the details of a sale's contract and final approval from Major League Baseball owners. Officials of Tribune Co., owners of the 132-year-old franchise, have been trying to sell the team since the start of the 2007 season.

The Sun-Times report said Ricketts, who started the online brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., was chosen from among three final bidders. The other two were Chicago real estate executive Hersch Klaff and a group led by Marc Utay, a New York private-equity investor who is a native of the Chicago area.

Tribune Co. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to its $12 billion debt and the sale could become entangled in bankruptcy court.

The New York Times has reported the sale price could be in the $1 billion range. In addition to the Cubs, the proposed deal includes Wrigley Field and a 25 percent share in the regional cable channel Comcast SportsNet.

Crane Kenney, chief executive officer of the franchise, said last week he thought the team would be under new ownership by the opening day of the 2009 season. The Cubs begin their season April 6 in Houston.

The selection of Ricketts as the favored buyer means he will have exclusive negotiating rights while a deal is made final. Three-fourths of the Major League Baseball owners must approve the proposed sale once it is submitted to the office of the commissioner.