I read this in Wednesday's Chicago Tribune, but it is behind the paywall. It's also interesting to note that there were 10,000 shares of Cubs stock before the Tribune acquisition. The article is " All is for sale in sports; why not Cubs shares?" by Phil Rosenthal.
Selling off a small stake in a pro team is a no-brainer in that context, and it in no way bucks tradition. The Wrigley family held a minority stake in the Cubs for a few years before finally taking control in the 1920s. By the time the family decided in 1981 to sell to Tribune Co., it had amassed 8,139 of 10,000 shares. The remaining ownership was scattered among a few hundred investors, many of whom viewed it as bit of a lark and were considered harmless.
The chief benefit of minority stock ownership at the time was the opportunity to quiz team leadership at the ballclub's annual meeting, much as fans at a Cubs Convention might these days. If the team were to make the World Series, shareholders also were to be assured preferential status when it came to buying tickets.
Some of the minority owners argued in 1981 that the franchise, then losing money, would almost certainly bring a higher price than the $20.5 million Tribune Co. was set to fork over had others been allowed to bid on it. No matter. The majority owner had spoken.
Because the Wrigley family controlled so many shares, shareholder approval was considered pro forma. But business, like sports, has its rituals, and so an August stockholder meeting was called to make the deal official.
One man from downstate Illinois who owned three shares made a motion for the sale to be postponed until after the season. And it was at this point that Cubs President William Hagenah Jr., the husband of Chairman Bill Wrigley's sister, did something few would have thought to do.
Hagenah called for a voice vote.
The decibels favored delay.
This, naturally, jolted awake team officials and attorneys on hand, and they immediately set about trying to undo the damage. They huddled for a time, then had Hagenah announce that the voice vote didn't count. All votes would have to be conducted on the basis of the number of shares owned, rather than volume of shareholders.
Long story short: The meeting ran 3 1/2 hours, there was much shouting and the sale was approved.