Media conglomerate Tribune Co. announced a definitive agreement Friday to sell all but a 5 percent stake in the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field to the billionaire Ricketts family, capping a tortuous process that began nearly 21/2 years ago.
Tribune valued the transaction at about $845 million.
“Our family is thrilled to have reached an agreement to acquire a controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs, one of the most storied franchises in sports,” said Joe Ricketts, who founded the Omaha, Neb.-based online brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. “The Cubs have the greatest fans in the world, and we count our family among them.”
Tribune had announced on Opening Day in 2007 that the marquee baseball franchise and historic ballpark would be sold at the end of that season. But the process was slowed by CEO Sam Zell’s efforts to maximize sale profits, the collapse of the credit markets and Tribune’s 2008 bankruptcy filing.
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The Ricketts family, tentatively selected as the winning bidder last January, had agreed to pay about $900 million for the team, Wrigley Field and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago, which broadcasts many Cubs games. But that total was renegotiated, with Tribune retaining a small stake for legal reasons.
The sale figure exceeds the record $660 million paid for the Boston Red Sox in 2002, although that deal did not include a ballpark.
The successful bid was led by Tom Ricketts, 43, a Chicago investment banker and Joe Ricketts’ son. He is a Cubs die-hard who grew up watching the team, once lived in an apartment across the street from Wrigley Field, and first met his wife in the stands at a game there.
Major League Baseball still must approve the sale, but that is not expected to be an obstacle. The ownership change needs to be approved by three-quarters of the league’s 30 owners.
Chicago-based Tribune bought the Cubs in 1981 from candy maker Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. for $20.5 million.
Rice takes shot at players
Jim Rice criticized today’s major leaguers as too individualistic, then offered Little Leaguers some old-school tips: Respect your opponents, don’t showboat, and stay off performance-enhancing drugs.
There’s too much focus on individual goals and getting big contracts in the majors, Rice said at Williamsport, Pa.
He said today’s major leaguers fraternize with each other too much on the field, and that while today’s ballplayers might be in better shape than Rice’s generation in its heyday, they get injured more frequently.
Rice played 16 seasons in Boston, batting .298 with 382 homers before retiring in 1989.
“We didn’t have the baggy uniforms. We didn’t have the dreadlocks,” Rice said. “It was a clean game, and now they’re setting a bad example for the young guys.”
The Red Sox activated outfielder Rocco Baldelli off the 15-day disabled list. Baldelli was put on the DL on Aug. 6, a day after fouling a ball off his left ankle during batting practice. … The Athletics have placed infielder Bobby Crosby on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left calf. First baseman Daric Barton was reinstated from the disabled list to take Crosby’s spot.