Cubs Sale

Tom Ricketts and family will be introduced to Cubs fans everywhere in a press conference on Friday morning at 11am CST and probably a couple dozen TV and radio interviews. To help you get through the day, I suggest grabbing your favorite alcoholic beverage(bring a thermos if you're at work) and follow along with this drinking game I designed.

Drink when:

- The Ricketts family are the new official owners of the Chicago Cubs and will have a press conference on Friday. Maybe they'll bring a new GM with them.

 "My family and I are thrilled that this day has finally come and
we thank Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball owners for
approving our ownership," said Tom Ricketts. "Now we will go to work
building the championship tradition that all Cubs fans so richly
deserve.  

- It's hard to tell how much is Chris DeLuca taking educated guesses or basing his column off some sources, but he seems to expect much of the same for the next two years with Ricketts in charge. Certainly don't expect a big jump in payroll (he throws out $143M) and Hendry isn't getting a blank check to rid himself of the Bradley mess.

On Friday, the Cubs' new owner will be confronted by more microphones, cameras, and sweaty members of the press than I imagine he has ever been confronted by before. I predict he will say something to the effect of, "I can't give you a definite answer at this point, but that is absolutely something we are going to be looking at," more times than we'll be easily able to count. Nevertheless, after the ridiculously protracted sale process and with so many critical issues facing the team—from the immediate future of the leadership team to the long-term viability of Wrigley Field—I will join many of you in hanging on every word Ricketts has to say. (I've also never heard his voice, so I'm curious.)

Apart from all of the obvious questions Ricketts will face, probably multiple times, here are some questions I would ask if I had press credentials or the ingenuity to sneak in.

The major league baseball owners have unanimously approved the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family. According to the Sporting News article, there are still a few hoops to jump through before the Ricketts officially take over day-to-day control of the team, which should hopefully happen before the end of the month.

The franchise still has to go through a 24-hour "pre-packaged
bankruptcy," which the Tribune reports will take place next Monday or
Tuesday. When that step is finalized, the banks financing the deal will
have a "10 day cooling off period" before they have to fund the deal.

When they do take over, Ricketts and Hendry will get to have this conversation (the following brilliance is from Andy Dolan at Desipio):

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UPDATE: Bruce Levine has some pretty good info and runs down the steps for the sale to become official.The most important paragraph for those concerned with the 2009 season:

A source close to the sale told me that the Ricketts family will be
able to direct -- in an off-the-record capacity -- chairman Crane
Kenney and general manager Jim Hendry in what they would expect for the
future as far as trades and acquisitions by the trading deadline. In
other words, Ricketts will be able to direct Hendry as to whether he
can spend more money for the 2009 season.


 Of course, the headline is a bit of a misnomer, as the owners probably won't vote on it until August and a bankruptcy judge has to approve it as well. That being said, it appears the two sides have finally agreed for just a little less than $900M. Whether the Ricketts can or will allow for the Cubs to take on any salary to endear themselves to some of the fans remains a question mark. The Cubs two biggest needs would probably be bullpen help and a left-handed hitting second basemen(and a psychiatrist for our left fielder). I can only think of one left-handed hitting second basemen that might be available and that's Felipe Lopez and that's just a waste of time. They could seek out a right-handed hitting second sacker (that sounds dirty), but that would pretty much ruin the Cubs carefully laid offseason plans that helped get them into this mess. If they do decide to bite the bullet on that, I think guys like Freddy Sanchez, Aaron Hill or Dan Uggla could possibly be had.

Either way, for those of us in the speculating and crazy-ass rumors business, it'll keep the interest-level high through July 31st.

Three roster moves a coming before the game tonight as well with Aramis Ramirez, Reed Johnson and Angel Guzman due back from rehab assignments.

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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).

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It had been days since we'd heard a new reason why the Cubs-to-Ricketts deal still hasn't been closed, but then on Monday, Crain's Chicago Business ended the wait:

I'm not sure if I should be worried about this piece of news, but supposedly soon-to-be new Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is trying to raise $100M in capital from private investors.

According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Tom Ricketts is looking for five to 10 people who could each come up with $25 million.

For that, they’d get front row seats at Wrigley Field, a chance to
rub elbows with players and be on an advisory board that would meet
regularly to discuss the team’s future.

After 15 years, they’d get back their original investment.

Alright, those seats would be kind of sweet and I think close to 100 people donated last time we had a donation drive. You are going to have to raise the ante though this time to about $250,000 each. You can just go ahead and paypal me the money or send a check to Nigeria.

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Notes following a successful home opener and heading into a well-deserved off day for the 5-2 Cubs:

-- It was just last September 15th, the day after Carlos Zambrano no-hit the Astros at Miller Park, when Ted Lilly held Houston hitless until the seventh inning before Mark Loretta stroked a clean, line-drive single tp recprd the Astros' only hit of the night.

That evening, Lilly, Jeff Samardzija (remember him?), Carlos Marmol, and Bobby Howry combined for the one-hit victory.

In this afternoon's home opener against the Rockies, Lilly was followed to the mound by Angel Guzman (1/3 IP), Aaron Heilman (1 IP), and Kevin Gregg (1 IP). It's the fourth time in Cub history that at least four pitchers have pooled their efforts to throw a one-hitter.

-- This afternoon's patchwork lineup, necessitated by Milton Bradley's sore groin, Aramis Ramirez's achy back, and Geovany Soto's bum shoulder, accepted nine walks by Colorado pitchers. That's 19 BBs in the last two games and five runs scored on bases-loaded walks.

Of course, scoring on a bases-loaded walk is no way to strike terror into the hearts of the rest of the National League, but on a day as cold and hitter-unfriendly as today was, it's not a bad way to go.

As several readers have noted in the Comments, Mark Cuban has been charged with insider trading by the SEC "over his sale of shares in Internet company Mamma.com after he learned it was raising money through a private financing."

If any of the clowns who were already resolved to vote against Cuban's quest to buy the Cubs were looking for a pre-emptory "I told you so," I guess they have it.

Interesting point made last week by Jim Memolo on WGN Radio, who was reacting to that anonymous source who told the Sun-Times that Cuban had "zero chance" of getting a thumbs-up from Major League owners:

Here is a guy who, from all indications, would do everything he could as Cubs owner to ensure the team's success and thus, live up to the highest standards of competitive integrity, and MLB wants absolutely nothing to do with him. In San Diego, meanwhile, the fans and MLB are watching the Pads get stripped bare because the guy who owns the team is being sued for divorce.

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Two developments on the ownership front:

As reported by Chris de Luca in the Sun-Times and noted by a reader under the previous post, there is z-e-r-o chance that MLB owners will approve beer-drinkin' regular guy/billionaire Mark Cuban as the next owner of the Cubs. According to de Luca, this seems to place "the group headed by John Canning, Jr.—(Commissioner Bud) Selig's personal favorite—back as the frontrunner."

On a related note, Friday's Wall Street Journal reports that Tribune Company may retain 50% ownership of the team anyway.

In recent weeks, an early plan to sell a 95% stake has fallen to about
half as suitors' ability to buy the team and its landmark stadium on
Chicago's North Side waned, according to two people involved in the
negotiations. On Thursday, bidders were preparing to receive a request
to submit new purchase proposals with financing details, those people
said.


The shift in strategy is a result of the tight credit market and a
heightening fear that few, if any bidders, would be able to complete a
transaction once valued at more than $1 billion. Under the new
scenario, the windfall to Tribune would be far less.


"This will still generate substantial cash," said one person with
knowledge of the sales process. "We're talking hundreds of millions of
dollars."


While the Cubs and Padres dance around a possible deal for Jake Peavy, there was another bit of Padres news this week that is very loosely connected to the Cubs.

Matt Vasgersian, who has done TV play-by-play for the Pads since 2002, is leaving San Diego for the job of lead studio host with MLB Network. Vasgersian, who worked Brewers games before heading west, was mentioned as a candidate for the Cubs job when Chip Caray left and was ultimately replaced by Lenny Kasper.

The greater connection between Vasgersian and the Cubs, however, lies in the fact that it was Vasgersian on the mic during a Padres game in May, 2006, when former Cub great Rick Sutcliffe stumbled into the booth (literally) and made his infamous drunken cameo appearance. (Kudos to Gaslamp Ball for retaining this unforgettable piece of baseball history.)

 

Michael TokarzCrain's Chicago Business reports Thursday that Tribune Company has asked two of the bidders for the team and Wrigley Field to pool their resources and make a combined bid. According to the Crain's source, the two bidders are 58-year-old Chicago native Michael Tokarz (pictured) of MVC Capital Inc., and Sports Properties Acquisitions Corporation, a New York company formed for the purpose of acquiring a professional sports franchise. Sports Properties is headed by Tony Tavares, former president of the Washington Nationals, and Hank Aaron—yeah, that Hank Aaron—sits on its board.

Tribune Company is said to feel that the two bidders' strengths are complementary: Sports Properties' team includes people with baseball experience, and Tokarz, formerly of the legendary New York equity firm, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, is stinkin' filthy rich.

Also this afternoon, the Tribune reports that the family of Joe Ricketts, founder of Ameritrade, is one of the groups that has advanced to the second round of the sale process.  

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From Wednesday's Tribune...

A new channel devoted to the Cubs is one of the enticing potential revenue-generating items that Tribune Co. is floating as part of its planned sale of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field and its 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet.

The story mentions some of the roadblocks that might prevent a New York Yankees/YES Network sort of channel from becoming a reality in Chicago, including the possibility that Tribune Company could box the team's new owner into continuing to air many games on Tribune-owned WGN. Still, one can certainly see why the concept might be attractive...

Crain's Chicago Business reports Tuesday that prospective purchasers of the Chicago National League Ballclub have been given a deadline of July 18th to submit their initial bids.

Crain's says 10 parties are currently in the running; those ten received the team's financial books last month. The paper's source expects the field to be culled down to four or five finalists following this first round of bids, with the winning bidder being "identified at or near the end of the baseball season (and) a deal closing by year end or very early next year."

Tribune Company has announced it plans to retain 5% ownership of the team, which should be more than enough to ensure that Sam Zell will be able to get a decent seat and a cold Old Style whenever he damn well pleases.

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With all of the excitement—and by excitment, I mean disgust—over the likely Cubs signing of Jim Edmonds, there wasn't an opening here yesterday to note the snag in efforts to peddle Wrigley Field to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.

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