With the Cubs looking for ways to finance the Wrigley Field renovation effort and projects around the stadium, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports that ownership is considering selling minority shares of the team.
No final decisions have been made yet, but the Ricketts family will not be selling off controlling interest in the team. It’s akin to what the Mets did a couple of years ago after the settlement in the Bernie Madoff scandal. Just some outside cash now to get the projects off the ground.
An industry source predicted the Cubs would be working from the latest Forbes valuation – $1.2 billion – that put the franchise behind only the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox at a time when commissioner Bud Selig estimated the sport’s revenues could top $9 billion this year.
That’s a 42-percent jump from the $845 million deal that finally closed in October 2009 and included a piece of Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The game’s rising tide hasn’t lifted the Cubs out of fifth place since the Ricketts family entered into that leveraged partnership with Zell’s Tribune Co., which demanded any buyer take on a debt-heavy structure that would create a shelter from huge capital-gains taxes.
The Cubs source said a sale wouldn’t impact the futures of team presidents Crane Kenney and Theo Epstein, who both have long-term contracts and run business and baseball operations without much interference from a hands-off ownership group.
MLB would have to approve any new owners. The Wrigleyville project is expected to cost around $500 million and will consist of renovations of the stadium itself and outside the stadium, including a hotel. In addition to trying to raise the money to fund it privately, Cubs ownership have run into some other issues along the way, including their contract with rooftop owners which runs through 2023. Plans for a jumbotron will block some of the views into the ballpark.