01.25.09

Cub Sale Update: Voo Doo Economics for the 101-Year-Hoo Doo Kings, Comprehensive CSTB Numbers Crunching, and a South Sider Consulted

Posted in Baseball at 1:59 am by

[Meet the Cubs new OTB funded owners:  Ameritrade's Ricketts family.]

For the last 48-72 hours, news of the pending Cubs sale went from naming Tom Ricketts the new owner to clarifying, as calmer heads in the business press took notice, that he has been given an “exclusive” 60-90 day window to make his bid happen, which the Wall Street Journal describes as possibly “challenging.”  That is, he’s offering $900 mil for the team, Wrigley, and 25% of the Cubs sports network “ and he only has half the $900 mil presently.  Wrigleyville23 immediately broke down the politics of the sale, pinpointing Ricketts as a generous GOP cash donor.  Then again, compared to the century of support the Tribune gave Republicans nationwide in their papers, comic strips, and by allowing Reptilicans to toss out first pitches at Wrigley, I prefer Ricketts.  I mean, at least he never insisted we keep the peace with the Nazis on his 1940s editorial pages.  Muckety‘s provides an interactive mapping of the Ricketts family fortunes and friends, which I cannot make sense of, but maybe you can.

Analysis of the deal so far is that Ricketts’ offer is about 900 million, half of which Ricketts says he can put up in cash.  It’s the cash factor that sets him apart, as no matter how close “ or at times, above “ the 1 billion mark other bidders came, no one put up $450 million in their own cash.  Then again, Ricketts now has to go out and find $450 million more in some truly credit crunched times, and while he has some sort of “exclusive” window, as many sources report, MSNBC claims that other bidders can still increase their offers.  Coming so quickly after Mark Cuban’s pleading blog post on the Cubs, it feels like someone in the Ricketts camp leaked Zell/Tribune’s preference.  Nothing is settled, and Cuban only trails by $50 million.  Like he couldn’t make that up? Cuban’s problem is that he is said (if memory serves) to have only offered $100 million in cash, with the rest coming from credit “ again, not so easy these days, and a leveraged-out owner is not what mlb wants.  With so many people reporting at odds with one another, it’s probably wise to be skeptical of all this and question sources.  Seriously, with money like this on the line, whose going to talk to a sports reporter?

The Biz of Baseball’s Maury Brown has a detailed account of Ricketts’ successful angling for his current poll position here.  Brown also mentions Cuban, and dismisses everything we’ve read about Cuban’s high profile interest in the Cubs:  he was never the lead bid post Bush credit apocalypse (he went from a rumored $1.3 billion offer to $850 after the Depression hit); the SEC charges did not effect his status at all; and the opinion of baseball owners re Cuban meant little compared to the numbers.  Apparently, this includes Maury Brown dismissing himself: here.  Since Cuban himself alludes quite a bit to Jerry Reinsdorf in his blog on the subject, I question much of what Brown says.  Still, mlb likes Tom Ricketts’ “I bleed Cubbie blue” reputation and that with him the Cubs can return to a family ownership, which mlb prefers.

South Siders will also appreciate that Ricketts went to the University of Chicago and is the son of Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade brokerage.  I know this graf from Bloomberg business news warms the heart of many a Sox fan like Rob Warmowski, as it tells the simple story of a well connected rich kid and his dream of being an even better connected rich kid:

Ricketts, who met his wife at Wrigley Field, grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and attended the University of Chicago. The 43- year-old worked as a trader at the Chicago Board Options Exchange and attended classes at night to earn a graduate business degree in 1993.

When asked his opinion of that graf, Rob W responded:  “With a black Democrat in the White House, it looks like Cub Republicans are circling the wagon’s on this one and picking one of their own.”  Indeed, Ricketts background makes it appear as if the Cub high command is simply promoting from within the bleacher ranks.  This way, they retain the North Side Republican status quo, and Ricketts connected rich kid background and days on the Options Exchange means many a South Sider employed by him already know him as “Mr. Ricketts” (to his face, anyway).

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