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11/19/08 9:43 PM EST
Cubs sale nearing second round of bids
Four ownership groups met with league owners in New York
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- The sale of the Chicago Cubs is progressing toward a second round of bids on Dec. 1, Major League Baseball's No. 2 executive said on Wednesday as the final two-day quarterly Owners Meetings of the year got under way. Without mentioning specifics, Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, said four of the groups vying to purchase the team have been in New York to discuss the matter and have met with various MLB entities during the last month. The matter was addressed during a session of the ownership committee. Real estate mogul Sam Zell purchased the Cubs in April 2007 as part of his acquisition of the Tribune Co. "The second letter has gone out, and the bids are expected [just] after Thanksgiving," DuPuy said, "and Mr. Zell says the team continues to be for sale and that they're moving forward with it and continuing to solicit the bids." DuPuy was asked about a story that appeared in the Wall Street Journal last Friday stating that Zell had softened the Dec. 1 re-submission date for bidders because of the state of the economy and the difficulty for suitors to procure financing at this point to conclude the sale. DuPuy said it was his understanding that the bidding process was on target. "My understanding is that the deadline is a week from Monday," he said. "I don't know anything more than I've read in the various trade publications. We've heard nothing more than that." Earlier this year, Zell sought preliminary non-binding bids from buyers. It was widely reported that Mark Cuban, who owns the National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks, had a bid of $1.3 billion. Cuban's figure reportedly had the highest face value among five finalists. After a period of due diligence in September during which the bids and finances of those groups were analyzed, Zell asked for a second round of bids with the floor set at $1 billion. Cuban was believed in media circles to have more available cash than the other bidders, but neither his name -- nor that of any other would-be buyer -- has been put forth to the ownership committee for approval. On Monday, news broke that Cuban was targeted in a civil proceeding by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is looking into insider trading regarding the sale of personal stock. One MLB owner said on Wednesday that Cuban's bid for the Cubs would go on the back burner for the time being until the SEC issue is resolved. DuPuy declined to address the nature of the bids or what four groups MLB has seen in person during the process. "We've had four groups here in New York, who have met with me," DuPuy said, "who have met with MLB Advanced Media, who have met with the new MLB Network. I assume that's all part of the ongoing process of continuing to meet with Cubs management about refining the bids." The finalist presumably could be submitted to the ownership committee when the group gathers again at Scottsdale, Ariz., in January. Once that committee approves the sale of any MLB team, it goes to the executive council and then on to the entire body of 30 owners or their representatives, who must vote 75 percent in favor for it to be complete. In other news from the Owners Meetings on Wednesday: DuPuy said MLB is addressing the current national economic situation by trying to do more in 2009 with the same amount of money spent in 2008. That means the central fund budget presented by MLB and approved by the finance committee is the same as last year. It should be noted that MLB has two big-ticket items on the docket for 2009: The launch of the MLB Network to a potential audience of 50 million basic cable subscribers on Jan. 1, and the second running of the World Baseball Classic slated for March 5-23. A's owner Lew Wolff told a small group of writers on Wednesday that he'd like to shorten the postseason by making the first round a best-of-one winner-takes-all. "I'd make it one-game-and-you're-out for the first series," Wolff said. "It would be exciting. It would be great." DuPuy downplayed the idea, saying that he's long been in favor of a one-game Wild Card play-in before the best-of-five first round begins. "Lew is an imaginative fellow and has a lot of good ideas," DuPuy said.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.