Zell-owned Tribune selects buyer for Cubs

The bankrupt Tribune Company is nearing a final agreement to sell the Chicago baseball team purchased by real estate mogul Sam Zell. A $900m offer from the head of Chicago investment bank Incapital reportedly beat bids from private equity executives Marc Utay and Leo Hindery.

The Sam Zell-owned Tribune Company has reportedly entered into exclusive negotiations to sell US baseball team the Chicago Cubs to Tom Ricketts.

Ricketts, who heads Chicago investment bank Incapital, offered roughly $900 million for the Cubs, the team’s baseball stadium, Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in a regional sports network, according to Tribune-owned newspaper, the Chicago Tribune.

The two parties still must negotiate the final agreement and secure financing, the reports added. The Cubs hope to complete the deal by the start of the baseball season in April.

Two additional parties were bidding for the team: Chicago real estate investor Hersch Klaff and a joint bid from Clarion Capital’s Marc Utay and InterMedia Partners’ Leo Hindery. Mark Cuban, owner of US basketball team the Dallas Mavericks, had earlier expressed interest in buying the team but did not submit a bid during the most recent round.

Equity International co-founder Zell acquired the Tribune, which owns eight daily newspapers, including The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, in a deal valued at $8 billion. As part of the transaction agreed in April 2007, Tribune agreed to sell the Cubs.

The Tribune last month filed for bankruptcy after struggling under a $13 billion debt load. The company had just $7.6 billion of assets. Tribune suffered with declining advertising revenues and circulation numbers as readers and advertisers shifted online. The problems are endemic of the newspaper industry and have been compounded by fixed costs for salaries, printing, raw materials and delivery infrastructure.