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paidContent - Tribune To Sell Control Of Cubs, Wrigley Field To Ricketts Family For $845 Million

This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.

After a tortured bidding process dating back more than two years, the bankrupt Tribune Co. is selling the Ricketts family 95 percent of the Chicago Cubs and iconic Wrigley Field for about $845 million —pending approval by Major League Baseball and a federal bankruptcy court. The deal, which would leave Tribune with a 5 percent stake in the joint venture, includes the company’s 25 percent share in Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) SportsNet. As part of the court process, Tribune said late Friday afternoon that the entity that holds most of the Cubs assets will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy so “that the franchise can emerge free and clear of Tribune Companys financial obligations.” The parent company filed for bankruptcy last December. A ruling is expected in early Q4.

The initial deal reported earlier this year was about $900 million for the whole shebang. But to minimize taxes, Tribune wound up keeping the 5 percent. Tribune bought the team from the Wrigley family in 1981 for about $20 million; as points out, the sale is more than 40 times what Tribune Co. paid nearly 30 years ago. The paper also reports that Tribune’s WGN radio and television stations will keep long-term broadcast rights as part of the deal; that agreement helped lower the purchase price.

The bidding process at one point included Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban as a suitor. The winner is the family of Joe Ricketts, the founder of online discount brokerage TD Ameritrade, led by his son Tom Ricketts. (Fun fact: AP mentions that the younger Ricketts used to live across the street from Wrigley and met his wife in the stands at a game.)

By Staci D. Kramer

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