Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Wrigley, Cubs in Limbo as Tribune Chief Zell Seeks Home-Run Deals

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Wrigley, Cubs in Limbo as Tribune Chief Zell Seeks Home-Run Deals

Article excerpt

Despite a Midas touch for eking profit from distressed properties, Sam Zell surely didn't know that having control of baseball's lovable losers would be this hard.

As Opening Day approaches on March 31, the new Tribune Co. chief's plan to sell the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field is months behind schedule, and both hoped-for sales are in limbo.

Fans are venting about the prospect of him selling naming rights to historic Wrigley. Public officials oppose his plan to sell the ballpark to a state-city agency. And some prospective Cubs buyers are frustrated the ballclub would come without the ballpark.

Yet whether or not Zell is able to win approval for a sale of Wrigley to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, clearing the way for a Cubs sale, few are willing to bet against the real estate billionaire and renowned dealmaker in the end.

"It's gotten a lot more complicated because of his effort to maximize the proceeds" from selling Wrigley and the Cubs, said analyst Dave Novosel of the Gimme Credit bond research firm. "But from his viewpoint, if he can get more dollars out of this, even if it takes an extra few months, it's a worthwhile delay."

The controversy over changes involving Wrigley, Novosel said, "obviously is creating a lot of buzz, but I don't know that it's hurting his pocketbook."

Zell's personal fortune, estimated by Forbes magazine last year at $5 billion, enabled him to risk orchestrating a buyout of Tribune last April at a time when others hesitated to bid for the ailing newspaper and TV company.

Selling off the Cubs seemed the easiest step, and Zell pledged to sell the team quickly -- first saying it would happen as soon as last season ended, then by the start of this season. Now, as would-be bidders wait impatiently, it's anyone's guess when a deal will conclude.

A person involved in the bidding said the sale is now unlikely to occur until after the 2008 baseball season.

"He's not under financial strain to sell quickly," said the person, who was not authorized to talk publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. "He can make his required loan payments with other sales."

The Tribune's new chairman and CEO, in fact, said in a statement Thursday that the company has begun a review of its assets amid reports that bidders have emerged for one of its biggest newspapers, Long Island, N.Y.-based Newsday. Other assets also could be sold.

A spokeswoman for Zell said he would not comment on the status of Wrigley and the Cubs. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.