The Cubs were sold to the Ricketts family a couple of years ago, but former Senator and major leaguer Jim Bunning still doesn’t like how it went down. Specifically, as it related to Mark Cuban’s failed bid. And Bunning said that if a similar thing were to happen again — a prospective buyer being shut out the way Cuban says he was shut out — it could imperil the league’s antitrust exemption:
Cuban said in an interview last summer that he was cut out of the Cubs’ process, despite a $1.3 billion bid that was more than 50 percent higher than the Rickettses’ winning bid. He also said he was denied a chance to buy the Texas Rangers a year later after another bid that beat the winner.
“That’s where you could get something,” Bunning, who was in Philadelphia for a throwback weekend, said of a challenge to the exemption. “If somebody like Mark Cuban wants to buy a team and offers something like
$2 billion, and they tell him he can’t. If they made an exception for a specific sale, it would be against the antitrust laws [and spirit of the exemption].”
Eh, maybe not.
The article cites Cuban’s bid for the Cubs and his bid for the Rangers. As for the Rangers: he backed out of the bidding. For the Cubs: it was never perfectly clear, but there was some suggestion that Cuban’s bid was debt-heavy and creative. Which, yes, the Ricketts’ was too, but the point is that there were qualitative differences in the bids as well as just numbers, and that provides any seller with the justification to go with a lower bidder without getting scrutiny like Bunning suggests is appropriate.
As I’ve argued a million times here, the only way a team sale situation is going to lead to the busting of the antitrust exemption is if the seller of the team (i.e. the team’s current owner) wants to sell to the next Mark Cuban but MLB tells him no. If the seller never comes to an agreement with the prospective buyer, there’s nothing to really work with. Sure, the reason someone may not come to an agreement with the next Mark Cuban could be that MLB pressures them not to, but (a) the ownership group is so thoroughly vetted for lap dogs these days that I’m guessing actual pressure isn’t necessary; and (b) even if that wasn’t the case, try proving it.