Cubs chairman Crane Kenney said again he expects the team's sale to be completed by opening day and the list of potential buyers could be down to one by the end of the month.
He also left the door open - slightly - for Tribune Co. to hang
onto it at least a little longer.
The company put the Cubs on the market on opening day 2007, when
it accepted a buyout from real estate mogul Sam Zell. Since then,
Tribune has slowly whittled the list of potential buyers from 10 to
three in a sale that could net $1 billion for the team and historic
Kenney has said several times recently he thinks a new owner
will be in place by the start of the season, and did it again
Saturday during the Cubs' fan convention.
"What I've been told is they're working now, and this month
sometime you'll probably have one bidder that they're working to
get a deal with," he said. "If they can't get a deal with that
bidder, they'll have two others to go back to. The other thing is
if the terms of any of the bids aren't satisfactory to Sam, he
won't sell because he doesn't have to sell it. He's got protection
through bankruptcy from any of the obligations he's got to the
lenders now, and he'll wait for a better market."
Tribune Co. kept the Cubs and Wrigley Field out of its Chapter
11 bankruptcy filing last month. Analysts believe that could result
in a higher sale price, which would boost creditors put on hold by
the move. But it's not clear whether those creditors would agree to
leave such assets out of the bankruptcy court's domain.
Either way, a drawn-out sale process appears to be approaching
Three potential buyers have been identified in media reports:
Tom Ricketts, a Chicago financier, member of the founding family of
TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., and chief executive of InCapital LLC;
Hersch Klaff, who owns a Chicago commercial real estate firm; and a
partnership between two New Yorkers involved in private equity,
Marc Utay of Clarion Capital and Leo Hindery Jr. of InterMedia
Once Tribune accepts a bid, the potential buyer would have to be
approved by Major League Baseball's ownership committee before all
the owners vote on the sale.
The uncertainty surrounding ownership the past two years hasn't
stopped the Cubs from enjoying one of their most successful
stretches, but the championship drought continues - 100 years and
After seeing their team get swept out of the playoffs the past
two years, fans want more.
So does general manager Jim Hendry.
"We're here for one reason - to win the world championship,"
he told fans.
What he can't figure out is why the team hasn't been able to win
a postseason game the past two years against Arizona and the Los
Angeles Dodgers, let alone advance a round.
Manager Lou Piniella has a theory.
"I think they tried to overdo it," he said.
He saw players pressing, trying to pull the ball when they
should have gone the other way. He also saw a lineup that didn't
have enough left-handed bats.
That's one reason the Cubs traded away the versatile and popular
Mark DeRosa after they led the National League with 97 wins. They
added switch-hitters Milton Bradley and Aaron Miles, hoping to
balance the lineup.
They also let oft-injured closer Kerry Wood go as a free agent
because they were unwilling to give him the three-year deal he
sought, meaning Carlos Marmol will now finish games.
So the Cubs will have a different look on the field to go with
the new owner.
Notes: Kenney inadvertently took some shots at infamous fan Steve
Bartman and former manager Dusty Baker in a separate
question-and-answer sessions with fans. The jab at Bartman came
when a fan asked if there will be any improvements at Wrigley Field
this season. Kenney mentioned a new beer garden. He also mentioned
the angst that surrounds projects at the old ballpark, such as the
bleacher renovation a few years ago. "We had women in lawn chairs
trying to block the construction crews," he said. "We called them
the weeping women. They were out there every day. We'd sit there
and say, 'If we don't do this right' and people say, 'You've
destroyed the bleacher culture,' my family's going to have to move
to Bartman-ville. Right?" The crowd groaned at that remark.
The swipe at Baker came while defending Piniella in a later session.
"If you think about the team that won in '07, does that team win
with our former manager? Not a chance," Kenney said, referring to
a team that made the playoffs after a brutal start.