Cubs: No Sale

The Cubs will not be sold, at any price, before the 2008 season has begun, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Since it was announced in early April that Tribune Co. was being sold, it was believed that incoming Chairman Sam Zell would spin off Wrigley Field and the team occupying it at some point in the final quarter of 2007. But two MLB sources confirmed Thursday that Commissioner Bud Selig had been unable to keep the process moving at that timetable, ruling out a sale before the end of the year and making one before the Cubs go to training camp next spring highly unlikely.

“I’m afraid that is right,” a source said. “I can’t say for sure why this is moving at the pace it is, but the pace of it has been frustrating. We had hoped it would pick up some steam, but it hasn’t.”

According to the source, MLB has not even closed out the application process for prospective buyers. The bidding for the team is still expected to be dynamic, but only five groups have been cleared to look at Tribune Co.’s baseball records, according to the MLB source.

Those groups are believed to include ones led by John Canning, chief executive officer of Madison Dearborn Partners LLC; Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (do I hear the collective groan of my fellow readers here?); the partnership of attorney Thomas Mandler and businessman Jim Anixter; the Ricketts family of Omaha, and a group headed by MVC Capital Chairman Michael Tokarz.

The slow pace of the process may be aggravating to the potential purchasers, but it doesn’t appear to be causing any complications in the operations of the Cubs. General manager Jim Hendry believes he will have the authority to fill the team’s needs this winter, saying he has received assurances the payroll will increase. He has begun the pursuit of Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome as well as at least two pitchers from Japan, starter Hiroki Kuroda and reliever Hitoki Iwase. There was also the possibility of the Cubs going after Alex Rodriguez, although it is highly unlikely at this point.

Hendry says he is continuing to report to President John McDonough, as he has since McDonough replaced Andy MacPhail in that capacity last year, and does not anticipate any problems improving the team that won the National League Central with an 85-77 record, but then crumbled mightily against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS.

One effect of the slow sale is that McDonough, Henry, and their associates shouldn’t have to worry about this jobs in 2008. Because there is a new owner, he may want to make changes, but those changes will not be drastic.

While Selig wanted the sale executed and approved before the end of 2007, he does not appear overly concerned about the slow pace.

“This is not an alarming development,” one MLB source said. “It’s a speed bump, a slowdown, not anything else. We’d like it to move faster, but these things move at their own pace, and the pace of this is, well, a little on the slow side—slower than everyone would like it, anyway.”

The MLB source said there has not been any indication how high bidding for the team may go. If Wrigley Field is included in the sale, as expected, the price could approach $1 billion (which is the price of the new Texas Stadium, rendered below). The record sale to date was the 2001 purchase of the Boston Red Sox by John Henry and Tom Werner for $700 million.

New Texas Stadium

The New Texas Stadium is expected to top the $1 billion mark in costs.

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~ by mlb2007playoffs on November 11, 2007.

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