Sale of Cubs May Be Completed Before End of Civilization
Some more news has trickled out on the impending sale of the Cubs and Sam Zell is hinting that the Ricketts may not be the new owner afterall (emphasis added).
"These are very difficult times. These are difficult
times to arrange financing," Zell said in an interview, adding that if
the Ricketts deal falls through, he is confident the media
company--which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in
December--will find another buyer for the ballclub.
"We’ve made it very public that the Cubs don’t fit into the long
term picture of the Tribune," he said. "So if the Ricketts deal doesn’t
get done, I’m sure there will be other ones."
Sure, a lot of people have $900M or so lying around to spend on the Cubs as evidenced by the three legitimate bids Zell actually received. Of those three bids, Ricketts was supposedly not the highest but offered the most money up front, so if financing is the issue, a deal that would require even more to be financed is probably not going to have much more luck than the Ricketts are having now.
Of course...financing really isn't the issue it appears. According to this story dated May 19th, the Ricketts already secured a little over $850M of that $900M original bid; $403M from the sale of stock in Ameritrade and another $450M secured in bank loans (Clarification: Technically $753M is secured with a $100M coming from a private placement by Barclays which we do not know the status of, although the Ricketts claim they can cover it if it falls through). There was that story of Ricketts looking for 10 or so investors at $25M a pop, including celebrities like John Cusack, Bill Murray and Jim Belushi, but that round of financing was supposedly not critical to get the deal done according to "sources". Crain's Chicago Business also echoes that the financing is already in place and explains the real delay.
Thomas Ricketts, who is leading his family’s bid for Tribune Co.’s Cubs, has lined up financing for the deal, but a dispute over price is delaying the transaction.
The Ricketts family, whose original bid was close to $900 million, now
believes the real price should be closer to $850 million, a source
said. The sides disagree over the value of the team’s multiyear
contract to broadcast games on Tribune’s WGN network.
At issue is about $40 million to $50 million — roughly 6% of the
original bid, which also includes Wrigley Field and a 25% stake in
regional cable channel Comcast Sports.
So the Ricketts are either short $50M in financing and trying to talk Zell down or they really are unhappy with the broadcast rights. I'm going with option B here. It appears the Tribune made sweetheart deals with WGN radio and television to broadcast the Cubs games at below fair market value for a contract up to 10 years sometime last fall. Ricketts isn't buying any stake of WGN, but is supposedly getting a 25% stake in the Comcast sports channel that already broadcasts about 80 games a year. So naturally, if he owns the cable company he'd like more games to go on there or be sure he's getting paid the appropriate amount in any licensing deal to WGN.
So don't believe the Zell lies, the money is there for Ricketts, Zell just isn't liking the terms.
Hat tip to waxpaperbeercup that has been all over the sale process, also check out Mark Cuban's blog on why he bowed out and wasn't going to pay anything near the $1 billion asking price at this time. End of the world coming Decemeber 21st, 2012...John Cusack (Cub fan) is starring. Coincidence? I think not.