Remember how Sam Zell, the new owner of the Tribune Co. said that he wanted to sell the Chicago Cubs before the beginning of the ’08 season? As mentioned then, the odds were always long that that would be the case, given how Zell mentioned that he was considering selling Wrigley Field separate from the Cubs. Now “considering” seems to be out of the picture for Zell. As reported by The AP:
Crane Kenney told attendees of the team's annual fan convention that new Tribune owner Sam Zell wants 94-year-old Wrigley in the hands of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority -- the same state agency that funded stadiums for the Bears and White Sox -- before he accepts bids for the Cubs.
Kenney said such a move is designed to "bind" the team's next owner to keeping the Cubs playing at Wrigley -- which also would receive maintenance and improvement funds.
"We'd like to find a new owner to play at Clark and Addison (streets) for the foreseeable future," Kenney said. Selling the team to the stadium authority "would put aside a substantial amount of money" for necessary changes at Wrigley.
Well, at least that’s what Zell is saying.
While there has not been anything publicly said, one speculates as to whether the sale of Wrigley has more to do with Zell’s self interest in paying down debt, and getting some capital in the bank to allow him to more easily deal with payments for the Tribune Co. The notion that new ownership has any desire of moving out of Wrigley seems remote, at best, as it has not fully been utilized to the extent that it could, to maximize its revenue potential.
In fact, the decoupling of Wrigley from the Cubs will most certainly impact the sale price of the team, and likely influence those interested in making the purchase. It would seem folly to suggest that removing one of baseball’s most revered and historic ballparks from the deal as a non-factor.
And, to add to this, what’s to say that ISFA might one day look to sell Wrigley? After all, there is already talk of the ISFA doing a naming rights deal (think, “<Your Company> at Wrigley Field” as the name).
No, this move by Zell seems to have all the earmarks of a man in need of money. One doubts if Commissioner Selig and the owners look favorably upon the decoupling of the Friendly Confines from the Chicago Cubs. Selling off share of ComcastSports Chicago? One could see. Wrigley Premium Tickets? Ditto. But Wrigley Field is a far, far different matter. Holy Cow!