The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

No next year for Zell

Sam Zell is fast-tracking the Cubs sale from Tribune:

Mr. Zell expects to select a finalist from the five remaining bidding groups and submit the deal for Major League Baseball's approval sometime in December, a person familiar with the sale says.

He is fast-tracking the sale — despite a credit crunch that seemed to put his year-end deadline in doubt — as pressure mounts to raise as much as $1 billion to chip away at the mountain of debt from his 2007 buyout of Tribune. With cash flow plummeting from weak advertising sales at Tribune's newspapers, selling half the team probably wouldn't raise the cash he needs. He has other assets to unload, but it would be difficult to do so quickly in a tough credit market.


The five bidders believed to still be in the game include Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban; Chicago bond salesman Thomas Ricketts; Chicago real estate mogul Hersh Klaff; New York investor Marc Utay, and Houston businessman Jim Crane. ...

Difficulty unloading the Cubs for top dollar would spell trouble for Tribune. When Mr. Zell engineered his $8-billion buyout last December, he agreed to keep Tribune's debt to less than nine times cash flow. But as the economy slowed and ad sales dropped this year, cash flow sank, down 45% last quarter, Mr. Courtney estimates. That forced Mr. Zell to accelerate his debt repayments and to sell Newsday this year for $650 million to pay off loans.

The one good spot in all this: at least the Cubs never got spanked 37-3 by cheeseheads. Sheesh. Why can't we sell the Bears instead?

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