- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

News broke yesterday that Chicago billionaire Sam Zell is buying Tribune Company, which owns the Cubs. But according to reports, the Tribune company will first sell the Cubs to a separate buyer. It’s kind of exciting to see a franchise with the kind of history as the Cubs go through this sale process, and I’m very curious to see who bids for the team and how much they will pay. Early reports suggest the team will fetch upwards of $600 million, or $150 million more than the Lerner family paid for the Nationals last year. And, like the Nationals, the Cubs sale would include a minority share in a regional sports network. It’s unclear at this point if the revered Wrigley Field is included in the sale package.

One of the intriguing things to note is that Zell beat out fellow billionaire Ron Burkle in the effort to buy the Tribune Co. Burkle, if you recall, was one of the bidders for the Nationals. Don’t be surprised if Burkle puts his name on the list of people interested in buying the Cubs. Other names that could pop up include Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Phoenix Suns chairman and former Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo. A corporate buyer may also enter the fray, but that appears less likely, as several teams including the Angels and Dodgers have switched to private ownership in recent years.

As a newspaper reporter, I’m happy to see the Tribune Company sell the Cubs. I never liked the idea of a media organization owning a sports team. While there’s no indication that reporters from the Tribune have pulled punches in their reporting of the Cubs, there’s just something about those types of arrangements that make me queasy because there’s always that appearance of a conflict.

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