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Cubs Narrow Field to Three

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jan 8, 2009 3:22PM

2009_01_06_cubslogo.gif Coinciding with the start of 2007 baseball season began, Sam Zell purchased the Tribune Co. and announced that he was putting the Cubs up for sale to help pay down the company's debt. Two full seasons later, the team remains part of his now bankrupt media empire. But this seemingly endless process of determining the winning bidder may be over soon. From an initial pool of at least 10 interested parties, the Cubs have asked three bidders to polish up their bids as the team decides which to accept. The three finalists are: Tom Ricketts, Marc Utay and Hersch Klaff.

Ricketts, originally from Omaha, is the son of Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. Tom Ricketts has lived in Chicago since 1983 and worked at the CBOE and as a finance executive before starting investment bank Incapital LLC. The family has an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion. So is the Nebraska native a true Cubs fan? He grew up watching the Cubs on WGN, once lived in an apartment across from Wrigley Field, and met his wife in the bleachers there.

Glenview native, and Lincolnshire resident, Utay made his money putting together leveraged buyouts of media and entertainment companies for investment bank Wasserstein Perella. He currently sits on the board of IMAX Corp. His group of investors includes others with media credentials, including former YES Network exec Leo Hindery.

Klaff hails from South Africa, but moved to Chicago in the '70's, and made his money by buying distressed retail properties. Now he's looking to snap up the crown jewel of the Trib's distressed portfolio. Klaff resides in Glencoe.

Absent from the list are many of the more high profile names that have surfaced throughout the process. No Ernie Banks. No Billy Marovitz. No Mark Cuban [Ed's Note: Grrrrrrrr - M.G.]. But just because the decision on the winning bidder may be made shortly does not mean anyone will getting their hands on the set of keys to Wrigley anytime soon. Between the credit market meltdown and MLB ownership approvals, the sale of the Cubs could continue on for months before the new owner can assume his place in the owner's suite.