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The motivation behind Zell’s moves

Monday, Mar 31, 2008

* The New York Times had this unsurprising quote about Tribune owner Sam Zell yesterday…

“He actually dislikes baseball,” Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of Chicago’s crosstown White Sox, said matter-of-factly. “He never would have bought the Cubs if they didn’t come with the Tribune. It’s just another asset to him.”

Reinsdorf’s claim was essentially confirmed by team chairman Crane Kenney.

* This brings us to the uproar over the sale of the Cubs, Wrigley Field and the park’s naming rights. Crain’s has the story behind the story…

[The Tribune Co.] has about $12 billion in debt, most of it the result of Mr. Zell’s leveraged buyout in December. A first payment of $650 million comes due Dec. 4.

* Selling the team, the park and the naming rights would more than cover that first payment. And that was the initial plan. Zell doesn’t care about baseball. The team is just another asset to be dumped. But the stadium deal is taking longer than expected, to say the least. So Zell - who is facing a depressed advertising market - is now looking to sell other assets to cover his nut.

But that doesn’t take the heat off the Wrigley deal.,,

Tribune will quickly face another deadline: July 2009, when a $750-million principal payment comes due. That’s on top of an estimated $1 billion in yearly interest payments.

Zell is sitting on top of a shakey house of cards, so expect the pressure to intensify on the proposed state buyout of Wrigley Field, regardless of any interim asset sales.

* More…

* Cubs play hardball with rooftop owner

* Wrigley Field looking at changes as Cubs start season

* There was an old ballpark in Chicago . . .

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ghost - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:17 am:

    Iltimatly if Zell changes the name of the Stadium, people will grumble, Zell will deposit the money in the bank, and life will go on. Real cub fans should be fighting for Zell to complete his sale and get out of the picture.

    The State is facing a fiscal nightmare and should dodge away from purchasing wrigley like the Gov confronting a question on his dealinga with Rezko and Levine.

  2. - jerry 101 - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:35 am:

    so, when does the cubs fire sale begin? just another asset to be sold. why pay all those huge salaries. might as well go with KC salaries. That’d save about $100 million.

  3. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:40 am:

    The way Zell structured the deal, he can either make a lot of money, or he can make a whole lot of money. The only ones who can lose are Trib. Corp. employees. Amazing.

  4. - The Doc - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 10:46 am:

    As usual, the mainstream media focus is on the general public’s adverse reaction to naming rights. It’s going to happen, one way or another, whether it’s under Zell’s watch or the subsequent owner. What we should be most concerned about is the potential state purchase and the accompanying sales-tax freeze.

  5. - Boone Logan Square - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:25 am:

    Given the money owed to Soriano, Lee, Ramirez, and Zambrano, it is possible we might see a fire sale along the lines of what the Marlins did in 1998 (when Wayne Huizenga forced Dave Dombrowski to unload most of the World Series team quickly). A question for Cubs fans is will Jim Hendry be able to get good talent in return? It’s possible the Cubs will have to throw in prospects in order to get teams to take these large contracts.

  6. - Levois - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 11:57 am:

    Why doesn’t the cranky old man just sell to the highest bidder, instead of selling to the state.

  7. - David Starrett - Monday, Mar 31, 08 @ 2:48 pm:

    Looks like we may see Jeff Samardija starting sooner than expected.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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