Potential Buyers Line Up for Baseball's Cubs Now that the Tribune Company has been sold, baseball's Chicago Cubs will be put up for sale soon. Who are the potential buyers for one of the game's historic franchises?
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Potential Buyers Line Up for Baseball's Cubs

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Potential Buyers Line Up for Baseball's Cubs

Potential Buyers Line Up for Baseball's Cubs

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Now that the Tribune Company shareholders have agreed to sell the media company to real estate magnate Sam Zell, the future of the Chicago Cubs is in question. In addition to all the major newspaper, TV and radio stations, the company that owns the Tribune also owns the Chicago Cubs. The team is now expected to be put up for sale.

We're joined now from Chicago by Tim Marchman, who's baseball columnist for the New York Sun.

Tim, thanks very much for being back with us.

Mr. TIM MARCHMAN (Baseball Columnist, New York Sun): Glad to be here.

SIMON: First, any chance Sam Zell will decide he wants to keep the Cubs?

Mr. MARCHMAN: I don't see any chance. The Tribune deal is complex and has a lot of moving parts but it's basically premised on him assuming a huge quantity of debt or the company assuming a huge quantity of debt. They will have to move the Cubs just get some actual cash flowing into the company, which between the way the markets have been working recently and the general problems with the newspaper business is not in the best shape.

SIMON: Tim, aside from me, who would like to buy the Chicago Cubs?

Mr. MARCHMAN: There's three major groups right now. The first one, though, by far the most serious candidate, is led by John Canning. He's a classic Chicago bigwig. He's on the board of directors at the Chicago Fed, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He's a trustee at the Field Museum. He soaked up some other groups that were looking to buy it.

We've got restaurateurs, a former chairman of the Cubs, some of the bigwigs from the 2016 Olympics committee, so really a lot of city elder types. And the interesting thing about him is that he currently owns 11 percent of the Milwaukee Brewers, which, of course, were formerly owned by the baseball commissioner Bud Zelig, and that gives him a reel in the ownership. It's a very solid, credible group and they are the favorite to buy.

The second major candidate to buy the Cubs is Joe Ricketts, the second wealthiest man in Omaha, Nebraska, and he started Ameritrade. Little is known about him or what experience he has in pro-sports teams or why he should be consider a credible candidate, but he's enormously rich.

And the third major candidate...

SIMON: I think you just stated his qualifications.

Mr. MARCHMAN: Yeah. And the third major candidate is Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and he's - depending on who you talk to either, you know, a self-promoting, overbearing loudmouth or the first progressive sports owner since Bill Veeck.

SIMON: I got to tell you, I don't see Major League Baseball willingly opening the door to Mark Cuban. Am I wrong?

Mr. MARCHMAN: Oh, no, you're not wrong about that. Baseball ownership is a very exclusive country club. And there have actually been problems in the past with owners like George Steinbrenner, for instance, who don't entirely buy into that model. So Cuban doesn't buy into that model at all. He wants to win. He has different ways of running a sports franchise. He's very into accountability.

And the interesting dynamic, though, is that because - I was mentioning with respect to Zell that they need cash coming in - he is likely going to want to actually sell it to the highest bidder, which baseball doesn't actually do. They got into a fair amount of trouble a few years ago because the Red Sox were owned by a charity, the Yawkey Trust.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. MARCHMAN: And they sold the Red Sox to John Henry and his group, which was actually the third highest bidder, which was, depending on who you ask, you know, a blatant or mildly less blatant violation of Massachusetts law.

So baseball's interest in getting the team to the highest bidder is not very high. Zell's will be high. So if Cuban actually comes up with more money than anybody else, it might be a pretty interesting situation.

SIMON: It should be pointed out - I want to do this very carefully because, as a fan, I don't want to interfere with the karma that may be developing, but let me just put it this way, they're having a good year at this point.

Mr. MARCHMAN: They're having a very good year at this point. They...

SIMON: Don't get more specific than that. Okay, Tim?

Mr. MARCHMAN: I will not get more specific than that but they're engaged in a very heated race with the Brewers and one could look at the two teams and conclude that the Cubs may just come out on top.

SIMON: Tim Marchman of the New York Sun in our Chicago bureau. Thanks so much.

Mr. MARCHMAN: Thank you.

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