Investors lining up in case Tribune decides to sell Cubs

Updated: November 16, 2006, 7:44 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- A group of 15 investors is lining up financing for a possible purchase of the Chicago Cubs if the baseball team is put up for sale by its parent, Tribune Co.

Tom Begel, chairman of TMB Industries, said Thursday that he and other investors expect the team to be sold for up to $600 million.

The Chicago-based media company bought the Cubs in 1981 for $20.5 million.

"I'm guessing the bidding will be fierce," said Begel, who hopes to be able to improve the fortunes of a last-place National League team that won just 66 games and lost 96 in the 2006 season. "I think there will be a lot of Chicago groups like ours that right now are trying to put a coalition together to do this."

Tribune, pressured by large shareholders disappointed with its stock price, has said it will decide the end of the year whether to sell certain assets or the entire company. Those assets also include 11 newspapers, led by the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, and 25 television stations.

Two Southern California billionaires joined forces last week to bid for the entire Tribune Co.

The company also reportedly received four preliminary bids from private-equity investors and one from newspaper publisher Gannett Co.

Don Levin, owner of the Chicago Wolves minor-league hockey team, also said this week he'd contacted Tribune to express his interest in buying the Cubs.

Begel wouldn't disclose the names of others in his consortium, but said the group includes "very prominent local people" as well as others from across the country. He said the group would like to purchase the Cubs from Tribune or another company that purchases Tribune's assets.

Company spokesman Gary Weitman declined to comment.

Levin, whose DRL Enterprises operates a variety of businesses ranging from loose tobacco and rolling papers to medical equipment and machinery leasing, said he would be able to finance such a transaction on his own.

"To own the Cubs would be a spectacular thing," the lifelong Chicagoan, 59, said in an interview. "It would be a great thing."

Guiding the team to a long-elusive World Series championship would be his goal. "They'd put statues up for you," Levin said. He said he didn't immediately hear back from the company.

Tribune's shares rose 21 cents to $32.31 in trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press