Could Bill Murray, along with
Jim Belushi, and John Cusack,
become minority owners in
the Chicago Cubs?
As reported yesterday, Thomas Ricketts, the exclusive bidder for the sale of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago, is lining up three banks to cover approx. $450 million of the $900 million needed to complete the deal.
But, according to today’s Chicago Tribune, in an attempt to pull together more capital into the deal, Ricketts has met with several celebrities with ties to the Chicago area including Bill Murray, Jim Belushi, and John Cusack. According to the report, Ricketts has met with them, “and other wealthy Cubs fans willing to pony up as much as $25 million.”
The reason that the deal has been difficult to broker has to do with the debt laden structure Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell has in place, and the tight constraints the credit markets have had on loans during the economic downturn. On top of the $450 million in loans from the three banks, the Ricketts family, which includes Thomas’ father Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade, has sold off 34 million shares worth $403 million.
With the share sale, the Ricketts family now controls approx. 17.7 percent of Ameritrade, but at the same time, lost a one of three board seats the family controls. To address the lost seat, Thomas Ricketts resigned.
Another aspect of the sale involves broadcast rights fees through outstanding contracts. As further reported:
Tribune-owned WGN radio and television have broadcast the games for years. But industry observers long have questioned whether the Cubs have received market value for those rights because the team and the stations are owned by the same company. The Cubs are one of the most popular franchises in sports, and other media outlets would have great interest in acquiring the broadcast rights when they become available.
The Ricketts family was seeking certain concessions on the WGN contract such as changes in how advertising revenue is shared between the team and the station, said sources familiar with the negotiations. Without adjustments, the family may consider lowering the $900 million offer it made in January when it won the auction for the Cubs.
This aspect of the deal outlines how broadcast holdings that are also owned by clubs can save themselves considerable sums money. How much does the WGN television and radio aspect fit into the equation? According to the Tribune story, “At stake is up to $50 million in the value of the franchise, or about 5.5 percent of the original bid, sources said.”
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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