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Tribune Company Sold, Cubs Next


Tribune Company's sale to Sam Zell is a done deal, and at least one of you yesterday wondered why I didn't mention it myself, didn't make a front page post, let it go unmentioned.

Why did I do this? Because nothing happened to the Chicago Cubs yesterday. We all knew this deal was coming, and the Cubs have been on the market since last April. We did learn that Zell intends to complete the sale of the team by Opening Day; that's a pretty tight time frame, especially considering that MLB approval is needed. Implicit here is the possibility, since the time frame IS so tight, that a backdoor deal is already done, or close to being done. That might not be good news for us as fans, since that implies that insider John Canning and his group are the frontrunners. I went on record two months ago as saying I was not in favor of Canning's group, and would rather see Don Levin, owner of the AHL's Chicago Wolves, buy the Cubs.

This will all play out over the next couple of months, and if and when I learn more, I'll post it. Though Zell was quoted as saying, in the Tribune link above, that major changes were to be afoot in the Tribune Co. itself, I would not expect any such changes for the Cubs -- not immediately, and maybe not even after a sale. A good comparison would be to the sale of the Boston Red Sox, which occurred either late in 2001 or early in 2002. When they were sold, virtually everyone working for the Red Sox remained in place. Only GM Dan Duquette -- who was under fire and not well-liked -- was let go. What new ownership did, instead, was increase staffing, and that's what the Cubs need, because they are either 29th or 30th (depending on how many people the Marlins are employing this week) in year-round, fulltime staffing among major league teams. Plus, any new owner would be a fool to replace the marketing department, which has been among the most successful anywhere in professional sports.

About Zell, I'm more concerned that he's hired a guy, Randy Michaels, to run Tribune's broadcast operations who once created a radio format called "Power Pig" and who briefly renamed a Chicago radio station "Hell"; he's often had his radio people go on the air with direct attacks on competitors (according to that Feder article, Michaels had a contest in Chicago in which his station "offered prizes to listeners who could repeat the phrase "B96 sucks" as many times as possible in less than 10 seconds."). What this means to the future of WGN radio and TV -- who knows, but that's not the way they've been run in the past.

And as for the Cubs, the next order of business is to see if more offense can be added, not to see who's going to be running things, since the latter isn't changing, at least for now.