With the Wall Street Journal reporting that the Tribune Company has hired bankruptcy advisers, Chicago Cubs fans are preparing for the worst (as if they ever prepare for the best). Will the team, which is owned by the Tribune, be able to afford Jake Peavy? Will a reputable buyer ever come forward? Will they have to take a bus to all away games? Surprisingly, the answers to these questions appear to be yes, probably and no.
Tribune Co. is looking into possible bankruptcy-court protection, according to the Wall Street Journal, to try and come to grips with the nearly $13 billion of debt it has incurred since owner Sam Zell brought the company public last year. Not swell news for Tribune Co. properties such as the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and more than two dozen radio and TV stations which it owns.
But the Cubs, which one would think would be the most vulnerable in times of economic stress, seem to be unaffected.
Kenney said all the bidders are aware of what the Cubs payroll is projected to be in 2009. Kenney wouldn't say, but sources indicated it will probably be between $140-$145 million.
"It leaves us enough room to address the issues we have to address and actually improve a 97-win club," he said. "If we wanted to deviate from the plan and take a shot at something completely different, I don't know if that happens in time [for the sale]. We won't have a transaction closed in time to do that."
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Chairman Crane Kenney says the team should be sold by spring training. It would seem that the Tribune Company's economic situation would make that difficult, but at least three buyers submitted proposals in the latest round of bidding in November, including real estate investor Hersch Klaff; the Ricketts family; and Marc Utay, a New York investor. It isn't known if Mark Cuban has dropped out.
Cubs Payroll Set [Chi-Ball]
Tribune Co. Ponders Bankruptcy [Newsday]