Cubs days away from changing hands

By: Ann Saphir Oct. 23, 2009

The Chicago Cubs are expected to have new owners by the end of next week, as the family of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. founder Joe Ricketts completes its $845-million purchase of the team.

Chicago-based bond salesman Thomas Ricketts, who has led his family’s bid during a 2½-year-long process, will be chairman of an enterprise that also owns Wrigley Field and a 25% stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Tribune Co., which bought the team for about $20 million in 1981, will keep a 5% stake in the business as a way to avoid a hefty capital gains tax.

Earlier this month, approvals from Major League Baseball and a judge overseeing Tribune’s bankruptcy case cleared the way for the transaction. The team is running out the clock on a 10-day period for objectors to register any dissent in Bankruptcy Court. That period will be up early next week; the deal’s close is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, one insider says, although such dates can easily slip.

The Chicago National League Ball Club LLC, the Cubs’ legal name, generated $241.2 million in revenue last year and $231.5 million through Sept 27 this year, according to Bankruptcy Court documents. The Cubs weren’t part of Tribune’s bankruptcy filing last year but were put into Chapter 11 on Oct. 12 to facilitate the sale to the Ricketts family.

The proceeds from the sale will be used to pay Tribune’s biggest creditors, including J. P. Morgan Chase & Co., which lent real estate mogul Sam Zell more than $8 billion in 2007 to take control of what was then a publicly traded company.

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