August 21, 2009

Trib agrees to sell Cubs for $845 million

Tribune Co. said Friday it has reached an agreement to sell all but a 5 percent share of the Chicago Cubs to the Ricketts family for $845 million.

The deal, which came after more than two years of negotiations, includes Wrigley Field and Tribune's 25 percent interest in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Our family is thrilled to have reached an agreement to acquire a controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs, one of the most storied franchises in sports, family patriarch Joe Ricketts said in a statement.

The Cubs have the greatest fans in the world, and we count our family among them. We look forward to closing the transaction so that we can begin leading the Cubs to a World Series title, added Ricketts, the founder of the company now known as TD Ameritrade.

Major League baseball owners are expected to give necessary approval for the deal, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.

The transaction would return the Cubs to family ownership for the first time since 1981. Before that, the team had been owned for 65 years by the Wrigley family, founders of the chewing gum company.

The $845 million price is one of the highest prices ever paid for a sports franchise.

Under the deal, the Ricketts family would take control of the team after the end of baseball season. Tribune, which filed for Chapter 11 in December, needs bankruptcy court approval to sell assets.

The media company said it would put the franchise in Chapter 11 bankruptcy to ensure the team will remain separate from financial obligations of Tribune.

This joint venture will provide dedicated, local family ownership and management for the team, said Tribune Co. Chairman Sam Zell. The Ricketts family will be a great steward of the franchise. They have a strong respect for the team, for the fans and for what the Cubs mean to the city of Chicago.