When Sam Zell agreed to buy the Tribune Co., the opportunistic, value investor made it very clear that he had no interest in Chicago’s beloved Cubbies.
The billionaire sees more value in selling the baseball team than retaining it. Indeed, analysts have suggested that the franchise could fetch some $600 million — not a bad return on a $20.5 million investment in 1981.
Tribune’s likely divestiture of the Cubs at the end of the current baseball season, as well as the company’s 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet, would leave just two Major League Baseball teams under the ownership of publicly traded companies: the Atlanta Braves, bought by Liberty Media from Time Warner in February, and the Toronto Blue Jays, owned by Canada’s Rogers Communications.
The sale would also mark a further move away from the 1990s trend of media companies operating sports teams.
In 2003, Walt Disney Co. sold the California Angels to a group headed by advertising magnate Arturo “Arte” Moreno; Disney sold the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim hockey team two years later. And in 2004, NewsCorp ended a brief experiment when it sold the Los Angeles Dodgers to real estate developer Frank McCourt.
“The Cubs have been an important part of Tribune for more than 25 years,” said chairman, president, and chief executive officer Dennis FitzSimons, in a statement. “In our last season of ownership, the team has one mission, and that is to win for our great fans.”