Crane Kenney, chairman of the Chicago Cubs, said Friday that he hopes the sale of the Cubs, Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago to be completed by Spring Training, and that the Tribune Co., by way of Sam Zell, would not be retaining a large stake, as reported last month by the Wall St. Journal. That report said that Zell would look to keep as much as 50 percent of the holdings after early reports had Zell looking to retain as little as a 5 percent stake for tax-avoidance purposes.
Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, Crane outlined where the process is currently at, and how the bidders are looking to control the club, even in exceptionally difficult economic times.
"The bids that came in were for control of the team where for Sam, any interest would be a small interest," Kenney said. "I think at some point people were talking about Sam holding almost half of it. That's not the way they [bid].
"People are ready to come in, and while the economy is as challenging as it is, I think the value of the franchise really hasn't changed long-term. I think the bidders are all well financed and understand that. They didn't deviate much from where the value should be."
While Kenny said that he hoped the deal would be completed by Spring Training, that timeframe is not set in stone.
"Sam doesn't operate under any deadline for this," Kenney said. "It could take as long as he wants it to, but for all of our benefit, we hope by spring training we're finished. And that will be good because there's a lot of planning we want to do that has some long-term implications. Not just the player contract stuff. Having an owner at the seat at the table would help."
At least three bidders are said to remain in the bidding process. Thomas Ricketts, chief executive of Chicago investment bank Incapital LLC and the son of Joseph Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp; Marc Utay, a managing partner with New York-based private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners LLC; and Chicago real estate executive Hersh Klaff are still in the running.
Crane went on to say that he is unsure whether he would remain with the Cubs after the sale is completed.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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