Despite not being able to make the sale happen in time to stave off Chapter 11 bankruptcy (at least temporarily), Sam Zell and his chippin ‘n’ flippin’ ways haven’t totally failed him. The Chicago Cubs’ sale to very rich people with little need for mostly non-existent loans could be complete within a week.
Three bidders show up in all the articles, apparently having been the last to put up offer sheets: real estate mogul Hersch Klaff, the TD Ameritrade family (the Ricketts), and Marc Utay, who made his money in private equity. They shouldn’t dust off their pocketbooks just yet, though. The CHICAGO TRIBUNE’s own reporter couldn’t resist this jab at the Tribune’s elfin master: “The company, which is controlled by Chicago real estate investor Sam Zell, also has not held firm to past deadlines.”
Not to mention that whole nasty “getting a billion-dollar loan” thing. We totally had the same trouble last week at Citibank. We asked for a billion dollars and promised to pay it back and everything. Did we get the loan? Noooo. Where’s your liquidity now, hmm?
So why now? Of course, Zell would like to sell as soon as possible before the second round of failed mortgages tightens up the market again and he’s stuck with the team being sold to please the bankruptcy judge (which is less likely now but not impossible).
Moreso, though, Zell can see the writing on the walls of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. (No, not the ones Bush put up in crayon, decrying “meaniebutt” Hussein. They repaint before the new people move in.)
A newly-confident Democratic Congress combined with an economic stimulus-laden President Obama might help him, but he might get serious about changing tax laws that help Cubs fans that buy tickets and hurts those that buy teams and want to split the stadium from the team and sell them separately in insanely complex tax deals.
A sports franchise sale is a slow-moving ship to turn ’round (though not as slow as a heavily-indebted media empire purchase, right?), so better to get it started as quickly as possible before the new tax consequences kick in, whatever they may be.
Or, you know, he wants someone else to take down that damned ice rink. He can save, like, $200 by making the new owners scrape it up.