Cubs raise about $175 million for stadium through limited partnerships

It may not have a direct impact on Cubs baseball spending anytime soon, but the Cubs have raised close to half the cost of Wrigley Field renovations through selling limited ownership shares to six investors in recent months – which could ultimately lead to stadium revenues providing a slight boost to payroll sooner.

“I think it was a really successful process,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said Wednesday. “We brought in some really great investors. They’re really going to help us fix the ballpark and get the team moving forward.”

The Rickettses won’t say how much was raised to apply toward the $375-million renovation project. But sources say the total is in the $175-million range, making the average individual investment $25-30 million.

That more than offsets the potential $150-million contribution from the city that was rescinded by mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2012 after revelations of a racially tinged attack-ad plan against president (and Emanuel pal) Barack Obama related to a Super PAC with ties to the Ricketts family.

At least as significantly, the family reached what is believed to be its investment-level goal for the plan Ricketts discussed with media before last season’s home opener, allowing the franchise — still under a heavy load of purchase debt – to complete the renovations without potentially more costly forms of paying for it.

“We had to finance it. There were a lot of different options,” said Ricketts, whose family is doing the project without public financing beyond a handful of tax breaks (and also with stadium-improvement considerations through Major League Baseball). “We chose the option of bringing in some limited partners. The family’s putting in more money also. So it’s a team effort.”

The franchise was valued between $1.2 billion and $1.32 billion by business publications in the past year, but internal valuations put the number much higher, according to a report on the limited partnerships – details of which ownership sources did not dispute.

That could put the total non-controlling investments in the range of 10-percent of those internal valuations.

News of investor deals being done emerged last week when Chicago businessman Andrew Berlin – also the owner of the Cubs’ Class A affiliate in South Bend – revealed he was an investor.

The club won’t reveal the identities of the five others, although a source confirmed – as mentioned in the CSNChicago report – that contrary to rumors, Omaha, Neb., billionaire Warren Buffett is not among the investors.

The Ricketts family is keeping the option open of offering partnerships in the future for other possible reasons. But, said family spokesman Dennis Culloton, “This closes the limited partner phase right now.”

The investors have no direct influence over business or baseball operations but make up what Culloton calls “sort of an advisory committee,” with general access to board members and business executives, along with “seating preferences.”

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