Cuban officially joins crowded field of Cubs suitors

Updated: July 13, 2007, 7:41 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Fans of the Windy City's lovable losers can count a maverick NBA owner among those interested in purchasing the Chicago Cubs.

Mark Cuban confirmed Thursday that he has submitted his application to Major League Baseball to purchase the Cubs. Cuban, who has owned the NBA's Dallas Mavericks since January of 2000 and is known for his free-spending ways, told the newspaper he sent the paperwork in last week.

Cuban's efforts to enter the already crowded field to purchase the team is being met with some speculation. The Chicago Tribune summed up Cuban's efforts to buy the team in its Thursday edition as follows: "And while Internet billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has expressed interest, most observers think Major League Baseball would balk at a potential owner as unpredictable and outspoken as Cuban."

When e-mailed by the Tribune to respond to the sentence, Cuban replied via e-mail: "I never comment on 'most observers' reports. It's like responding to a random blog post, a waste of time."

The Tribune Co. announced in April it would sell the team at season's end, after the ailing media conglomerate announced its acquisition by billionaire investor Sam Zell. It put one of sports' most storied and star-crossed franchises on the block, a year shy of the 100th anniversary of its last World Series title.

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Zell, a real estate magnate who already owns part of his hometown Bulls and White Sox, did not comment about why he's was not interested in keeping the Cubs in connection with the $8.2 billion deal. The team is one of Tribune's richest assets.

Cuban faces some stiff competition among suitors for the Cubs. Several potential deep-pocketed bidders are expected to vie for the Cubs and possibly for Wrigley Field, including Cuban and Chicago native Jerry Colangelo, the Phoenix Suns CEO who once ran the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Tribune reported Thursday that the Ricketts family, which founded discount broker TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., has joined the list of potential bidders.

Sources close to the situation said the Ricketts family is readying their application MLB requires for all parties wishing to bid on a franchise. The group is led by Thomas Ricketts, 41, who is the founder and chief executive of the Chicago-based investment firm, Incapital Holdings LLC.

Thomas Ricketts is the son of J. Joe Ricketts, an Omaha billionaire who founded Ameritrade. Forbes Magazine this year estimated the Ricketts' family worth is $2.3 billion.

The Tribune reports other bidders include John Canning, who heads the Chicago-based private-equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners and is a part-owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. Additionally, a partnership of restaurateur Larry Levy and Chicago business owner Craig Duchossois is also thought to be interested in entering the fray.

Don Levin, who owns the Chicago Wolves minor league hockey team has said he is interested in bidding for the team, as is a partnership of Chicago attorney Thomas Mandler and area businessman Jim Anixter. A group led by industrialist and private-equity investor Thomas Begel may also try bidding on the Cubs, the newspaper reports.

Bidding for the ballclub and historic Wrigley Field, however, is certain to be fiercely competitive. Forbes Magazine recently valued the Cubs at $592 million, fifth-highest in baseball, although experts speculate the bidding could start at $600 million. Tribune paid $20.5 million for the team in 1981.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella seemed impressed with Cuban's credentials.

"I don't know him, but the guy basically, he's a winner. He's a character. He has obviously got the resources," Piniella said Friday.

"I do know that he's got a lot of charisma. He likes the competition and he likes to win. So he's certainly a very viable candidate to buy the club. But there are going to be a lot of people that want the club."

Piniella said he didn't think he'd have any problems working with a hands-on boss like Cuban, if that should ever happen.

"I can work for anybody. I've done this for 20 years, all I do is my job on the field. Let me tell you this, there are going to be a lot of people that have interest, and Mark is one of them," Piniella said.

Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano, whose negotiations for a multiyear extension were shelved after it was announced the team would be sold, said he would welcome Cuban buying the team.

"I think he would bring whatever it takes to win the World Series," Zambrano said. "Plus, I can be signed by him. You know, I know he has the money for me. Hopefully he can buy the Cubs."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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