At Least Three Group Submit Bids for Chicago Cubs

NEW YORK (Reuters) – At least three groups submitted offers on Monday to Tribune Co in the latest round of bidding for the Chicago Cubs baseball team, two sources familiar with the process said on Monday.

Groups led by Tom Ricketts, chief executive of Chicago investment bank Incapital LLC and the son of the founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp; Marc Utay, a managing partner with New York-based private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners LLC; and Chicago real estate executive Hersh Klaff submitted the bids, said the sources, both of whom asked not to be identified because the bidding is still ongoing.

It was unclear whether a group led by Jim Crane, the former chief executive of freight-forwarding company EGL Inc, had submitted a bid.

None of the groups could be reached to comment and Tribune Co declined to comment.

Internet billionaire Mark Cuban, who last month was charged by federal regulators with insider trading, has not been part of the bidding for months, sources close to the process previously said. He could not be reached to comment.

Cuban, who owns the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks team, was one of the five finalists in the bidding and reportedly had bid the highest at $1.3 billion for the team in an earlier round.

Cuban, who is contesting the government allegations, previously said the weakening economy would likely affect final bids for the Cubs.

The groups submitted the new bids after receiving more detailed financial data on the Cubs, their storied ballpark Wrigley Field and a 25-percent stake in a regional sports TV network. The bidders had met over recent weeks with executives from Major League Baseball’s commissioner’s office, the sports league’s advanced media unit and its new television network.

Tribune, which owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times newspapers, put the Cubs on the block in April 2007 when it announced it would be bought for $8.2 billion by a group led by real estate magnate Sam Zell. It is selling the team to cut debt it took on as a result of the leveraged buyout.

Zell said in October he expected to sell the Cubs before year’s end and Tribune would soon choose two final bidders.

Analysts have said the team and the other assets could attract bids topping $1 billion.

However, the process has been repeatedly delayed and the slumping U.S. economy has led to speculation final bids could be lower than initially expected.

There have been reports Tribune Co could retain a stake in the club of as much as 50 percent to help complete a deal. That was up from a 5-percent stake Tribune Co initially weighed as a way to cut the resulting taxes from a sale.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman and Megan Davies)