Word came Thursday that Tribune Co. picked the Ricketts family to buy everyone's favorite World Series non-winner, the Cubs, for about $900 million.
The Ricketts clan, of Ameritrade fame and other wealth generators, also gets a box in which to store the Cubs — a 95-year-old ballpark called Wrigley Field — plus a regional cable TV network on which to broadcast the Chicago National League Ballclub.
The decision, first reported on the Chicago Sun-Times Web site, ends (almost) the seemingly interminable process by which Sam Zell, renegade newspaperman, has tried to shed the Cubs from his portfolio.
Tom Ricketts, the family's point man, is not simply some investment guru with a general manager complex. He lives in the Chicago area, and claims to be a Cubs fan who met his wife at a game in the bleachers.
Here's words from the man himself:
"My family and I are Cubs fans. We share the goal of Cubs fans everywhere to win a World Series and build the consistent championship tradition that the fans deserve."
It's his void to inherit, provided his group clears the hurdles to a final deal (something about the worst credit market since the Great Depression). If that happens, and no one else still outbids Ricketts (you hear that, Mark Cuban?), the Cubs will have new ownership for the first time since 1981, when the monolithic Tribune bought them from the Wrigley family for... wait for it... $21.1 million.
Even better resale value than a Honda Civic Hybrid.
Here's what the Ricketts are getting themselves into:
The Cubs have a $140-million payroll and are favorites to win the NL Central for a third straight season, but they also were swept in the playoffs the past two years and haven't won a World Series since (everybody!) 1908.
While mismanagement, incompetent baseball-playing and old-fashioned bad luck have caused the Cubs to miss a championship parade or two in the intervening decades, the team also carries with it mystical baggage in the form of ghosts, curses and goats. These objects should not matter, but do, and though amusing, really get on the players nerves.
Wrigley celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2014 and Old Girl needs round-the-clock care like many other other seniors. Sometimes, for example, chunks of concrete fall from the upper deck. Using a restroom or eating inside the park are not recommended. Wrigley will need many more millions to make it even partway to its next centennial. Will the Ricketts family also have made the Cubs a champion by then?