Run by a massive, emotionless corporation for too long, it's about time the Cubs fans get their George Steinbrenner: a shrewd, hard-headed businessman with a fat wallet and a burning, bloviated desire to win. Unfortunately for the Wrigley faithful, the Tribune Corporation is stuck choosing between two Big Steins, each with less-than-desirable offers on the table.
Earlier this week, the long-awaited Cubs sale seemed to be wrapped up as a $900 million bid from the Ricketts family was submitted to MLB and bankruptcy courts for approval. Il Famiglia Ricketts made their monies from TD Ameritrade and Thomas Ricketts, the figurehead in the deal, is a lifelong Cubbies fan. Seems like a good deal, no?
Unfortunately, the $900 millon bid that had been announced in January was a little light when current Tribune Co. honcho Sam Zell weighed it in his mitts. The Ricketts pulled back some coin because the Trib pays less than market rate on the portion of the TV station bundled in the sale. The Ricketts weren't going to settle for that kind of back-scratching, no sir.
Enter a new group, headed by Marc Utay, with a higher offer but less cash upfront and more debt. What does more debt mean for an already cash-poor organization? A lower ceiling for player payroll and the possibility that manager Lou Piniella will have to take on extra duties like mowing the lawn and sweeping up the dugout.
To top it all off, Zell might retain a portion of the club so the transaction doesn't legally qualify as a sale so he can save a few hundred million in taxes. The question still remains: can either possible ownership group scrounge up enough money under their sofa cushions to keep the Cubs from having a positive cash flow and paying off Milton Bradley's $30 million contract and $5,000 monthly repair contract for the Gatorade machine? If not, this would-be sale could fester in its pending state for quite awhile.
What does this all mean? Either the Utay offer is just a red herring to get the Ricketts group to bring their offer back up a few million sheckels, or Lenny Dykstra is going to start a massive Ponzi scheme to raise enough dough to buy the Cubs.
(Many thanks to Maury Brown's Biz of Baseball for making sense of the Cubs sale.)