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Zell To Sell Cubs By Opening Day

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Dec 21, 2007 5:02PM

When Carlos Zambrano, Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fokodume receive their first paychecks of the 2008 seasons, there will be a signature on them. Whose it'll be, nobody knows. That's because current Cubs owner Sam Zell vows to close a deal on the sale of the Cubs by Opening Day.

The Zell Era officially kicked off inside the Tribune Tower this week, with the billionaire's purchase of the paper closing on Thursday and his taking the reins from outgoing Chairman and CEO Dennis FitzSimons.

2007_04_sports_cubs_wrigley.jpgAmong Zell's first orders of business will be selling the Chicago Cubs, which is currently part of the Tribune Co.'s stable of assets. While many expected that the selection process to choose new ownership for the team could go well into next season, Zell has already announced that he intends to find a buyer for the ballclub quickly. Guess we can expect a frenetic winter as the likes of Mark Cuban, John Canning, Jim Anixter and others lobby Zell and Major League Baseball to prove that they're the best option to take over the team.

Yet to be decided is whether or not all of the Cubs' assets will be sold as a package, or whether their stake in ComCast SportsNet and Wrigley Field will be sold in separate deals. Zell again mentioned the possible sale of the friendly confines to the State, which we think is the stupidest idea ever. Does Blago think that if he buys it, maybe Hannah Montana will perform there?

Zell also brought up the super-popular idea of selling naming rights to Wrigley Field. Did we read things right that he might be planning to negotiate that deal before selling the ballpark? Because we're pretty sure that the new owners might take issue with buying Boeing Ballpark or Kraft Field, even if it does bring in additional revenue.

Of course, additional revenue would mean a higher sale price and dollars are what's most important for Zell. With the Trib currently carrying $13 billion in debt between operating deficits and purchase loans, he needs all the cash he can find. With the gum maker mum on plans to pony up to keep their name on the park, will we see a new name on the former Weegham Park soon?