[Ecstatic Cub Fan Tom Ricketts Just Got an Awesome Summer Job.]
Word reached the CSTB Cub desk Friday evening that a sale has been finalized between the Ricketts family, who founded Ameritrade, and the Tribune Corporation, in selling the North Side franchise. The sale means $845 million goes to Tribco, which will retain a 5% stake in the team. In return, Americketts gets the team, Wrigley Field, and Tribco’s 25% stake in Comcast cable which broadcasts Cubs games.
Apparently, Sam Zell’s attempts to jack up the price during the banking and credit collapse over the last year dragged the process out for 30 months for his pre-crash dream of getting $1 billion for the 1908 champs. Considering the 5% stake he retains, it looks like Zell came in about 10-15% under the total $1B asking price (if my English major’s math is right). In today’s economy, not bad. Zell’s troubles have been tastefully documented by CSTB, and I’ll miss the little guy. But, that’s the past, and Trib retirees and nervous pensioners will now have to fend without me. Republican rule in the nation’s capitol ended this January. Now its last stranglehold stronghold, Wrigley Field, goes, too. With the founders of Ameritrade running the show, I don’t expect to see Mayor Daley on the field anytime soon, but who knows? At least ol’ Joe Ricketts probably didn’t lobby as hard as the Tribune to keep us out of WW II. I like Dick Tracy comics as much as the next guy, but the Trib has been short on good ideas since its 1931 debut. On hearing the Ricketts news, some of the locals noted:
“Hopefully the Rickettses will spend money on the team” for good players and rehabbing Wrigley Field, said Devon Vowman, 21, who works at a sports shop across from the stadium.
“It’ll be nice for a family to own the Cubs that cares about more than the bottom line,” said his co-worker, Alex Sheehan, 20.
Yeah, I dunno if I’d look to the Ameritrade family to look past the bottom line much Alex. Devon, all I can say is, how much money does it take? The Cubs have a sizable payroll. Is that what’s holding them back? Unfortunately, the feel good story coming out of Wrigley 2009 remains the relative good health of Ryan Dempster’s big toe. From Opening Day, it’s been a birther-friendly press blitz on Bradley, Zambrano’s temper tantrums, Aramis Ramirez and Geo Soto benched all year “ and the inability of the Cubs to hit for anything. The Town Hall tea-baggers in the press box flipped out the day Milton Bradley was signed. They’re not to blame for the mediocre-to-terrible play this year, of MB or the team, but it sure left a bitter taste to go along with the acrid smells around Wrigley in 2009. No matter how it ends up, this season has been a bummer to watch. That’s not a money problem.
I can’t stand the Trib Co., but I can’t blame it in the last few years for not trying. Getting a solid closer, a non-psyched out line-up, ok “ but they obviously wanted to pump up the value of the team and make it an NL Central powerhouse to increase the sale price. But this summer, it’s the Cards picking up Holliday and Smoltz for October and managing to go the whole season without a concussion. We can’t even get Aramis Ramirez off the bench for a few weeks straight. At the end of the day, the White Sox had more use for Jake Peavy than the 2009 Cubs. Where did the Sox get $60 mil in Cubmoney to get Peavy, btw? You know, I see a Sox fan in a Benz, I think, “drug dealer.” Anyway, could the Cubs close an 8 game gap with the Cards in 2009? I dunno, why couldn’t they score 3 runs against the Dodgers last night? What’s the point of a pricey arm holding down the opposition to 2 runs when you can’t score 1?
As for baseball’s love of putting a friendly face on team owners, preferring family ownership to corporations,well, whatever. I’m not sure what difference that makes yet with Americketts. I mean, I sure don’t prefer family run businesses like the Wrigleys (Phillip K’s reign, for sure) or Marge Schott’s or the Yawkeys or the Seligs, to the $$$ Tribco put into the Hendry/Piniella Cubs. The Trib had a reason to pay for a winner in recent years. When winning is a profit motive, winning happens.
Please note, the Cubs always turn a profit, win or lose, due to fans of Wrigely Field more than baseball “ some would pay $845 million just for the park. Will the Americketts have the same incentive as Zell post-sale? Or will the need to pay down their extended credit line on the Cubs in a lousy market and cut payroll? I’m sure Cub fans love the idea of a bleacher bum, who lived in Wrigleyville, and met his wife in the stands, buying the team. Do I really want a true blue Cub fan owning the Cubs? Someone in love with the Wrigley mistake mystique of goat curses, day games, who’ll fight any changes to Wrigley that might ruin his Harry Caray nostalgia? If Americketts reasons that paying for a winner means paying off their loan, I’m sure winning will happen.