It’s official: Ricketts family closes deal, assumes control

November 28, 2009

BY DAVID ROEDER droeder@suntimes.com

It might be. It could be. It is. At last, a new owner of the Cubs.

The Ricketts family officially assumed control of the franchise Tuesday upon the closing of its $845 million deal with Tribune Co.

A news conference will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Wrigley Field.

The sale allows Tribune, which has owned the Cubs since 1981, to retain a 5 percent stake in the team to reduce taxes by an estimated $300 million. But control will be firmly with the Rickettses, whose patriarch, Joseph Ricketts of Omaha, founded the Ameritrade discount brokerage.

One of his sons, Tom, is a Chicago-based bond broker who directed the family’s two-year quest for the team. A Wilmette resident, Ricketts is an ardent Cubs fan who has said he met his wife-to-be in the bleachers.

His siblings — Pete, Laura and Todd — will join the team’s board. Tom, 44, will be the chairman, and Tribune will have one seat.

The sale includes Tribune’s 25 percent interest in Comcast SportsNet. Tribune, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, sold the Cubs, Wrigley Field and the Comcast interest to reduce debt that peaked at more than $13 billion.

Real estate entrepreneur Sam Zell used debt to acquire Tribune in December 2007 just as revenue trends for newspapers began to decline.

Tribune paid $20.5 million for the Cubs in 1981 and maintained generally high payroll levels for the team but never could end the club’s World Series drought. It hasn’t played in one since 1945.

”My family and I are thrilled that this day has finally come, and we thank commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball owners for approving our ownership,” Tom Ricketts said in a released statement. ”Now we will go to work building the championship tradition that all Cubs fans so richly deserve.”

Tribune has said it expects to realize $740 million from the sale after taxes and other adjustments.



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