At least 3 bidders for Cubs in new round

1:14 PM CST, December 1, 2008

By Ameet Sachdev | Tribune staff reporter

At least three prospective buyers have submitted a new round of bids to Tribune Co. for the Chicago Cubs, one of professional sports’ trophy franchises.

Chicago real estate investor Hersch Klaff; the Ricketts family, founder of online brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.; and a group led by Marc Utay, a New York private equity investor, delivered their proposals by the Thanksgiving deadline, according to sources involved in the negotiations.

Sources declined to comment on the size of the three bids, which include the team, Wrigley Field and Tribune’s 25-percent stake in Comcast SportsNet, a regional cable sports network.

It was unknown at the time this report was filed whether two other prospective buyers — Houston businessman Jim Crane and Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team — had submitted new bids.

While Cuban has expressed ardent interest in the Cubs, he has not been active in the sales process for months, according to a source. His chances to buy the team took a hit when federal securities regulators charged him last month with insider trading.

Cuban and Crane could not immediately be reached for comment. Utay, Klaff and Tom Ricketts, a Chicago bond salesman who is leading the family bid, declined to comment.

The new bids are a boost to Tribune and a sales process that has been stalled by the financial crunch. The Cubs have been for sale since April 2007, when Chicago real estate billionaire Sam Zell reached a deal to take Tribune private and saddle the media company with $13 billion in debt. Tribune owns the Chicago Tribune.

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