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BREAKING: Tribune Co, Ricketts Reach Deal on Chicago Cubs Sale PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 06 July 2009 11:09

UPDATE #2: The New York Times reports that, "The draft of the agreement has been sent to Major League Baseball, which will review it and make a recommendation to the owners of the other franchises, who must sign off on the deal."


UPDATE #1: Due to Chapter 11 bankruptcy by Tribune, a court will also have approve the sale.


It took far longer than was expected, but Reuters is reporting that a deal has been approved by Sam Zell and the Tribune Co. to sell the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago to Thomas Ricketts for “slightly less than the original $900 million bid, a source familiar with the deal said on Monday.”

"There is a deal between the Ricketts and Tribune Co," said the source, who asked not to be identified because the agreement has not been announced.

Spokesmen for Ricketts and Tribune Co were not immediately available to comment.

The deal had been held up over Ricketts pulling back by as much as $40-$50 million based upon Tribune paying below market rate on for media rights to the Tribune held outlets WGN-TV, WGN Radio, and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

If the sale agreement is finalized, the next steps would be approval by MLB’s Executive Committee, followed by a vote by all 30 owners in the league. Club transfers require approval by 75 percent of the league’s owners. The transfer to Ricketts is expected to pass without conflict.

The next quarterly owners meeting is set for August. A vote could take place before then via conference call, if the league so desires.


Maury BrownMaury 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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BREAKING: Bidding Opened Back Up on Sale of Cubs PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 18 June 2009 15:32
Cubs Sale

It appears that the sale of the Chicago Cubs by the Tribune Co. is going to take longer to complete as the exclusive negotiating window for Thomas Ricketts has now closed.

According to Reuters, the bidding has reopened for rival bidder Marc Utay, a managing partner with New York-based private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners LLC, and his partner Leo Hindery. The Utay/Hindrey group, along with Chicago real estate executive Hersh Klaff of Clarion Capital were the final three bidders along with Ricketts in late January of this year. Ricketts was selected out of the three on January 22 which allowed him to enter into a 30-day exclusive window to try and reach a purchase agreement. That window has long since passed.

At the time Thomas Ricketts, the chief executive of Chicago investment bank Incapital LLC and the son of the founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp (AMTD: O), bid was said to be lower than Utay’s bid, but was selected due the structure of Ricketts’ offer and how that married up with the difficult credit markets. Ricketts, at the time, offered $900 million for the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Ricketts’ $900 million was being pulled back by as much as $40-$50 million based upon Tribune paying below market rate on for media rights to the Tribune held outlets WGN-TV, WGN Radio, and Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The addition of Utay in the mix may be designed Tribune nudge Ricketts forward. As reported by Reuters:

Tribune Co and its banker, JP Morgan, have entered into formal talks with the Utay/Hindery group and a deal could be reached late next week, a third source said.

However, others said the re-emergence of the Utay/Hindery group, which finished just shy of the Ricketts' offer in January, also could be Tribune Co's way to pressure Ricketts into settling on terms desired by the media company. Two sources described the sides as on the verge of a deal.

"That's just a way to keep the fire on the Ricketts," the first source said. "The Ricketts have never been closer to getting a deal done."

Ricketts has reportedly lined up the needed financing, with the gap appearing to be the $40-$50 million that he wishes to take off the $900 million initial offer.


Maury BrownMaury 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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How Long Before Other Bidders Get Back in the Cubs Sale Mix? PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 12 June 2009 08:11
Cubs Sale

The clock appears to be running out on Thomas Ricketts and his exclusive window on the purchase of the Chicago Cubs.

Ricketts’ exclusive negotiating window with Sam Zell and the Tribune Co. ended last week, however, the sides continue to try to hammer out a deal that would transfer ownership of not only the Cubs, but Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

As issue is the amount of control that Tribune will have over the deal, based upon prior contract agreements with media outlets WGN-TV, WGN Radio, and Comcast SportsNet Chicago, which is part of the sale. Ricketts had a winning bid of $900 million, but is looking to back that figure down $40-$50 million based upon Tribune paying below market rate on for media rights to the Tribune held outlets.

That issue could eventually open the door for the exclusivity arrangement between the parties to be dissolved and prior bidders such as Marc Utay and Hersch Klaff, the two other bidders that filled final bidding figures before Ricketts was selected

If the Tribune Co. and Ricketts reach an agreement and approve the sale, the final hurdles would involve a recommendation by MLB’s Ownership Committee, and then a vote by three-quarters of MLB’s owners to approve the ownership transfer.

Final approval by face-to-face meeting would need to take place in August. However, the vote could take place via conference call. If so, and the vote moves in Ricketts’ favor, the ownership transfer could be completed by July.


Maury BrownMaury 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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Tom Hicks Up to Putting Majority of Texas Rangers Up for Sale PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 28 May 2009 08:53

RangersTom Hicks, the majority owner of the Texas Rangers, began looking for minority investors in the franchise in late March. At the time, Hicks Sports Group, which owns the Rangers and NHL Dallas Stars, Hicks Was working toward selling 46 percent of his 95 percent controlling stakes. HSG has gone into default on over a half-a-billion in loans – $525 million.

In April, Hicks said that there was no chance that the banks could wind up owning both holdings, but now, instead of retaining majority ownership, Hicks appears to be up for selling off his majority stake (see Could Tom Hicks Be Forced to Sell the Texas Rangers?). As reported by the Star-Telegram:

In a surprise, Tom Hicks didn’t rule out that his nearly 11-year ownership tenure might soon be reduced to something less than having the final say.

[...]

"I am selling part of the Rangers. I don’t know how big of a part. Yes, I’d be open to selling more than a minority share, but it depends on who the partners are."

So, who could wind up purchasing the majority of the club? That remains an open question, but the as the Star-Telegram further reports, a familiar face in Nolan Ryan could be interested:

As Hicks’ hand-picked, in-charge-of-everything team president, chummy seems to apply here. Plus, it has been speculated many times that Ryan and his longtime business partner, Don Sanders of Houston, would have an interest in buying a majority share of the Rangers. And no interest at all in what was previously being offered — a minority share.

"Knowing nothing about what the details are, and having not been involved in discussions [about being a majority owner], there’s no way I can comment on any of this," Ryan said.

Would it be something he would now explore?

"That’s hard to say," Ryan added, "without having talked to Tom about it."

If Hicks were to sell his majority stake it would mark the end of an 11-year ownership tenure with the Rangers.


Maury BrownMaury 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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Ricketts Meets with Bill Murray, Jim Belushi, and John Cusack on Cubs Sale PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 08:52

Bill Murray

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 BrownMaury 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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Ricketts Lining Up Three Banks to Complete Cubs Sale Financing PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 18 May 2009 13:40

The sale of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago has reached a critical point as three banks have been lined up by bidder Thomas Ricketts to close the sale transaction. According to Daniel Kaplan of the SportsBusiness Journal:

JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America are set to commit to the deal as soon as the end of this week, the sources said. That commitment would allow Ricketts to submit his $900 million bid to the court that’s overseeing the bankruptcy filing of current Cubs owner Tribune Co. The court likely then would take 30 to 45 days to process the offer, one source said, leaving a potential closing ready by July.

Ricketts is looking for $450 million to complete the $900 million transaction. As further reported by the SBJ:

According to one finance source, the $450 million financing is split between a loan and a fixed-rate private placement, which represents loans from institutional investors like pension funds. The bank loan portion is roughly $350 million, the source said, and the private placement, which the three banks are arranging, is about $100 million.

If Sam Zell of the Tribune Co. approves the sale, the final hurdles would involve a recommendation by MLB’s Ownership Committee, and then a vote by three-quarters of MLB’s owners to approve the ownership transfer.

With the next MLB owners meetings set for this week, the final approval by face-to-face meeting would need to take place in August. However, the vote could take place via conference call. If so, and the vote moves in Ricketts’ favor, as expected, the ownership transfer could be completed by July.


Maury BrownMaury 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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Cubs Sale Not Expected to Be Completed by May Owners Meetings PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 06 May 2009 08:50
Sale of the Cubs


To use a bad pun, stop the presses. The $900 million sales transaction between the Tribune Co. and Thomas Ricketts for the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago will not make the self-imposed deadline of the next quarterly MLB owners meetings. Those meetings are set for May 20-21.

The reason? According to a report in today’s edition of the Chicago Tribune:

Sources blamed the slow pace of negotiations on several factors. The double whammy of a recession and a financial-sector meltdown has made it difficult for the Ricketts to secure financing. The family raised $400 million for the deal by selling personal stock holdings and planned to borrow the rest.

The deal is also dragging out due to the fine-toothed comb that lawyers are taking to it. That is being done to ensure that the deal is approved by a bankruptcy judge. Tribune filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December.

Due to the complications, both sides are reluctant to say when the deal will be completed.

"Seems like every time we talk in terms of deadlines we manage not to get it done in the right time frame," said a second source familiar with the sale process who asked not to be identified.

After he May 20-21 meetings, the next scheduled face-to-face owners meetings are set for August. However, the vote to approve the deal (it requires 75 percent of the owners to agree) could occur via conference call, should baseball wish to not wait until nearly the end of the season to approve the ownership transfer.

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Maury BrownMaury 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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Sale of the Cubs Should Be Completed by End of May PDF Print E-mail
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MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 16 April 2009 08:18
Sale of the Cubs

The sale of the Chicago Cubs to Thomas Ricketts should be completed by the end of May. The sale agreement worth $900 million is progressing toward that date, according to Sam Zell of the Tribune Co. As reported by Bloomberg News:

“Everything is fine,” the 67-year-old Zell said Weds. in an interview. “We expect to close toward the end of May.”

Sal Galatioto, founder of Galatioto Sports Partners, which represents the Ricketts family, declined to comment. Tom Ricketts is the chairman of Chicago-based Incapital LLC and the son of the founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.

While the sale agreement between Ricketts and Tribune signals a nearing of the end of the Cubs sale started in April of 2007, the deal has to be approved by the owners. The next face-to-face meeting is set for May 20-21 in New York. Should Zell and Ricketts not complete the sale agreement before then, the owners will most likely vote on the deal via conference call. Seventy-five percent of the owners must approve the ownership transfer. It is believed that the deal will easily be approved.


Maury BrownMaury 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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Report: Sale of Padres Could be as Early as Thurs. Alderson to Resign PDF Print E-mail
MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 26 March 2009 01:48

 Jeff Moorad

Jeff Moorad could be announced as the
new owner of the Padres as early as today.

The sale of the San Diego Padres from John Moores to former Arizona Diamondbacks CEO and player agent Jeff Moorad is very nearly complete according to a report by The Associated Press. And, according to the North County Times, Padres CEO Sandy Alderson will step down on Thursday. In a sign that the Padres sale could be finalized, possibly as early as today, Alderson said in February that he would be stepping down as CEO as soon as the sale transfer from Moores to Moorad was complete.

At the time of the February announcement that Moorad was in exclusive negotiations to purchase the Padres, he said that his ownership group was working toward completion of the sale by Opening Day. Moorad and his group will buy the franchise over a period of up to five years, ultimately acquiring 100% ownership, subject to approval by Major League Baseball. According to Barry Bloom of MLB.com, Moorad has confirmed the nearness of the deal.

"We're awfully close to being able to announce the deal," Moores said when reached by telephone on Wednesday night. "Things have gone as well as I could've expected, particularly because of Commissioner Bud Selig and his staff. The process has been fairly smooth from the beginning up until now. There have been no surprises."

(Read The Biz of Baseball interview with Moorad)

A UCLA graduate with strong roots in Southern California, Moorad has a 25-year history in professional sports, working for many years as a player representative for top athletes in baseball and football. He purchased an ownership stake in the Diamondbacks in 2005.

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Maury BrownMaury 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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Cubs Sale Likely to Occur After Season Start PDF Print E-mail
MLB Club Sales
Written by Maury Brown   
Thursday, 19 March 2009 10:13

The Sale of the Cubs

The completed sale of the Chicago Cubs from the Tribune Co. to a group led by Thomas Ricketts will most likely not occur until after the season starts, according to Cubs chairman Crane Kenney. According to comments to The AP, the sale agreement between Tribune and Ricketts is moving forward, but the approval from MLB would most likely not occur until the next quarterly owners meeting set for May.

"There's a negotiation that's occurring, and like every negotiation, there's an issue or two that probably wasn't spotted early that needed to be resolved," [Kenney] said. "None of them are in any way fatal to the transaction. It's standard stuff, I would say. And the credit markets are challenging, and this is a transaction that will have some amount of debt on it."

[…]

"The Ricketts family and the Tribune are very close to the terms of their deal, which is the first domino that needs to fall," Kenney said. "From there, because of the Tribune bankruptcy, we need to have a court involved to approve the terms of the transaction supporting the creditors, who, obviously have a great interest in seeing how this transaction unfolds."

In terms of completing the approval process at the MLB level, Kenney said that Commissioner Selig would be supportive of expediting the executive committee and owners vote as soon as possible.

"(He) has assured me he'll do whatever it takes to jump through hoops, if that's what's necessary at various committee levels within baseball, to get this finished," Kenney said. "I think it will be a challenge to make opening day. If I were to tell you we were going to make opening day, everything would have to fall into place just perfectly, and the world's an imperfect place, so I would say that's probably unlikely."


Maury BrownMaury 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.

Don't forget to register and log in on The Biz of Baseball site to get updates via your in-box, and see information only logged in members can see.

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