Meet the Ricketts? Not just yet, Cubs fans

By Dave Fultz

Spring training is just around a month away and the Cubs finally have a new owner … well, almost.

Billionaire Tom Ricketts was selected as the favorite by the current Cubs owner, the Tribune Company, last week after making an offer that is believed to be at or near $900 million. Ricketts is the president of a corporate bond dealer and is also the son of Joseph Ricketts, the founder of the TD Ameritrade brokerage firm.

The Ricketts’ bid represents, essentially, a family bid that has local ties. Ricketts and his family live in a Chicago suburb and the man even, reportedly, met his wife in the bleachers at Wrigley Field.

The bid looks as if it’ll be accepted and Cubs president Crane Kenney is hopeful that the deal will be finalized by opening day. There are still a few obstacles to be navigated before this deal becomes a reality and the Ricketts family is officially the new owner of your Chicago Cubs.

First, the Tribune Company’s creditors need to sign off on the deal. While they have no official veto power in the deal, it seems as if the Tribune wants their stamp of approval before moving forward. It seemed as if the sale of the Cubs would be strung along for a long time when the credit crisis hit the market and made it difficult for potential bidders to put together the money to make this deal a possibility.

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    Next, baseball’s owners need to vote to approve the new ownership group. A three-fourths majority is needed in order for the deal to be accepted but it looks as if this won’t be much of a problem.

    Despite early reservations from the owners about a potential sale to Mark Cuban and persistent rumors that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf might lead a group to deny the Cubs’ sale, the Ricketts family looks like a lock to come away with the owners’ approval. MLB officials usually prefer ownership groups that are tight knit and financially savvy; the Ricketts meet both of those criteria with flying colors.

    The most attractive thing about the new group, however, is that they have shown no indication that they will lower payroll or lose any dedication to the product on the field that has been built up over the last decade. On the contrary, it has been reported that the Ricketts group has already given a preliminary go-ahead for general manager Jim Hendry to expand the team’s payroll if it means adding a premier talent to the team.

    Most fans are taking this to mean that a long-rumored deal for San Diego ace starting pitcher Jake Peavy is back in the works. But one National League executive was quoted on ESPN as saying any chance of a deal for Peavy before spring training is now dead and that the Padres have cut off talks regarding him.

    With the Cubs cutting payroll and adding pitching prospects in the deals that sent Mark DeRosa and Jason Marquis out of town, I still think something is brewing. It might not come to fruition before spring training, though.

    If one thing is for certain, and almost nothing is when teams change hands, the Ricketts’ would be well served to not rock the boat too much in order to put their own mark on the club. They are taking over a team that has one of the steadiest revenue streams of any team in the league and is coming off of back-to-back division championships – something that hasn’t happened in nearly 100 years.

    If Tom Ricketts wants to be the man to push this team over the hump and be there when it does what it hasn’t been able to accomplish in the last 100 years, he should surround himself with smart baseball people and let them do their jobs without interfering too much.

    Dave Fultz is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected].