Monday, July 6, 2009

Cubs Sale Done?

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Ricketts family and Sam Zell have finally come to an agreement on the sale of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field and 25% stake in Comcast Sportsnet to the tune of about $900 millions. The sale was initially agreed upon early this year, but negotiations continued until recently. The sale is not finalized yet, as the Ricketts family must get approval from MLB(a formality) and a bankruptcy court before they can officially take over. No one knows exactly how long that may take, but I wouldn't expect it to be finalized before the last pitch of the regular season.

What does this mean for Cubs fans? Nothing right now, since the Ricketts family won't be taking over anytime soon. Without the sale, there was little chance that the Cubs could acquire a player before the July 31st deadline that wouldn't involve an equal salary going back. That isn't likely going to change since this deal probably won't be finalized before then. Is it entirely possible that the Ricketts family can give Jim Hendry the ok to add salary before then? I guess its entirely possible, however very unlikely. For the future, it could mean good news and bad news for Cubs fans.

The good news is that quite possibly having a singular owner might do wonders for the Cubs instead of being owned by a corporation. Its been a long time since a team won the World Series with a corporate entity running things. With a singular ownership, it might be easier for the Cubs t add payroll and be flexible in their dealings, instead of always having to worry about the bottom line. Sure, the Ricketts are in it to make money, but I have a feeling that winning a World Series might be high on their priorities too.

The bad news might come at the expense of their wallets. With new ownership will alomst certainly come with new prices; tickets, concessions, etc. But that's not the only thing. One of the holdups to the deal being finalized is most likely the broadcasting contracts that the Cubs are tied to, namely with WGN and WCIU. Since the Cubs were owned by the Tribune company, also the parent company WGN, the broadcast rights were tied to them, seemingly forever. And I would imagine that the Tribune company charged themselves pennies for the rights to broadcast the Cubs. But with them separating through this deal, this opens up the Ricketts family to start their own Cubs broadcast network, much like the New York Yankees (YES Network) and the Boston Red Sox (NESN) have done in recent years. What does that mean? Well your grandparents that have moved to Arizona and were able to watch some Cubs baseball games now won't be able to unless they order the MLB package from their local cable or satellite provider. Is this going to happen? Its not for certain, but you have to believe that the Ricketts family is well aware of the revenue potential available to themselves if they own the Cubs, the network and the ability to sell their own advertising. It just screams of cash. Personal seat licenses are another option, but not something I plan on getting into now.

So, a new era of the Cubs is upon us and while there is great things abound, it could also be a step in the direction of the Cubs becoming a conglomerate much like the Yankees and Red Sox.

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