Indeed, the financial meltdown and the credit crunch put a halt to the proceedings last fall and winter. No one could afford to buy anything. No one knew what anything was worth. Asset values crumbled. So did predictions of a $1 billion Cubs price tag.
And then suddenly, in January, Cubs fans appeared to have their new owner: Tom Ricketts, a Nebraska-born heir to the billions made by his father, Joe Ricketts, founder of the discount Internet brokerage TD Ameritrade. With a bid of around $900 million, Zell had chosen the winner.
It was a number that struck even the Cubs-fan diehards among the bidder groups (and there were many of these) as too sweet. "Nine hundred million is absolutely too high," says Thomas Mandler, a native Chicagoan and a prominent lawyer in town who put together one group of investors to make an offer for the team. "And it was on the outward edge of what would have been reasonable two years ago, before the markets took a nosedive."
But evidently it was the right price for Ricketts. And that he is, reportedly, a deep and lifelong Cubs fan gladdened the masses. But none of this not helped him close on a deal.
Or perhaps it's the Cubs (as owned by the Tribune Co., as owned by Sam Zell) that are the ones having the trouble.
As one person involved in the process says, "These negotiations have been the most dragged out and difficult that I've ever seen."
Over and above the bankruptcy of a parent company (it's true that the Cubs as an entity have been held outside the Tribune's Chapter 11 proceedings, but the media conglomerate's creditors nevertheless have an interest in the sum any sale of the team brings), and over and above the notorious deliberateness of Major League Baseball when it comes to approving new owners, two main issues seem to be gluing up the works. (And it's no longer financing, which has come unglued.)