Ricketts Family To Buy Chicago Cubs

fromWBEZ

Major League Baseball is expected to approve the largest deal in its history. The billionaire Ricketts family, of Nebraska, last week reached an agreement to buy a controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs from the financially-troubled Tribune Company. For about $800 million, the family would gain control of one of the most storied teams in baseball and Wrigley Field. However, it's not clear what Cubs fans get out of the deal.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Come this fall, Major League Baseball could approve the largest deal in the history of the game. The billionaire Ricketts family of Nebraska reached an agreement last week to buy a controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs from the financially troubled Tribune Company. For about $800 million the Ricketts family would gain control of one of the most storied teams in baseball, and not just the team but also its historic home, Wrigley Field. What's not clear is what Cubs' fans might get out of the deal. From Chicago Public Radio, Alex Keefe reports.

Unidentified Man #1: Peanuts, how about a big ol' bag?

ALEX KEEFE: Just around the back of Wrigley Field, diehard Cubs fans are lining up to get their spots in the outfield bleachers. These are familiar stomping grounds for 59-year-old Chris Gorskey(ph).

Mr. CHRIS GORSKEY (Cubs Fan): At seven years old I was coming here, taking the bus by myself.

KEEFE: Gorskey says he's excited by the prospect of having new owners for the Cubs. The Rickettses made their fortune by founding the online brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, and Gorskey's hoping their entrepreneurial drive can finally get the team what it's been chasing for more than a century: a World Series title. But he quickly lapses into nostalgia about Wrigley Field.

Mr. GORSKEY: Now, I guess what's nice about it is, is that it really hasn't changed much from the time I was seven years old to the time I'm now, and that's nice. We like that stability.

KEEFE: And there is the rub. Many fans like Gorskey are hoping for dramatic changes if the Ricketts family gains control of the Cubs. But they're also protective of the team's rich tradition.

Mr. GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI (Senior Columnist, ESPN.com): We really have no idea how this franchise is going to change, because they simply haven't given us any information.

KEEFE: That's Gene Wojciechowski, a senior columnist for ESPN.com. He says it's no wonder the Rickettses have maintained a media blackout since they started bidding for the team. They've slogged through more than a year of delicate negotiations, complicated by Tribune's bankruptcy filing in December and an 11th hour bidding war. Wojciechowski says now he's waiting to see what happens next.

Mr. WOJCIECHOWSKI: We don't know if Lou Piniella is going to be the manager next year, or if they're going to blow up Wrigley Field, if they're going to tear down the scoreboard and put up a JumboTron.

KEEFE: No one from the Ricketts family agreed to be interviewed for this story. Spokesman Dennis Culloton says that's because the deal still needs approval from Major League Baseball and a bankruptcy judge. He's hoping that will happen this fall.

Mr. DENNIS CULLOTON (Ricketts Family Spokesman): In the meantime, they're going to be respectful of those two very important steps.

KEEFE: Culloton won't speculate about changes in team leadership or in Wrigley Field. But he will say the Rickettses are life-long season ticket-holding Cubs fans who appreciate the experience of a game at Wrigley.

Mr. CULLOTON: What you'll see in this new era is a family that is very smart, very successful, and they're going to bring that to the Chicago Cubs.

Unidentified Man #2: T-shirts, get your t-shirts, Cub souvenirs here, t-shirts.

KEEFE: Back outside the friendly confines, 28 year-old-fan Adam Beck(ph) waits near the gate to get players' autographs. He's here making his annual pilgrimage from Michigan to see his beloved Chicago Cubs, and he has a message for the Ricketts family.

Mr. ADAM BECK (Cubs Fan): Bring home a World Series, literally. Bring home a World Series. This is what this town needs.

KEEFE: That may require some patience, but Cubs fans seem to have plenty.

For NPR News, I'm Alex Keefe in Chicago.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Hey, anything could happen. It's only been 101 years.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.