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Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Ricketts, Klaff, Utay give second-round bids for Cubs to Tribune Co.

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- At least three would-be buyers of the Chicago Cubs baseball franchise have submitted second-round bids to Tribune Co., according to newspaper reports.

The Chicago Tribune, which is also owned by Tribune Co., and The Wall Street Journal said in stories late Monday and Tuesday the company received at least three new offers by its deadline on Monday.

Both papers identified the suitors as: Tom Ricketts, a Chicago financier, member of the founding family of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., and chief executive of InCapital LLC; Hersch Klaff, who owns a Chicago commercial real estate firm; and a partnership between two New Yorkers involved in private equity, Marc Utay of Clarion Capital and Leo Hindery Jr. of InterMedia Partners.

A spokeswoman at Tribune's headquarters in Chicago said the company had no comment late Tuesday.

Messages left for Ricketts, Klaff and Utay were not immediately returned. A number for Hindery could not be found.

Real estate mogul Sam Zell, the chief executive of Tribune Co., first indicated he wanted to sell the Cubs and its famed home, Wrigley Field, more than a year ago to help pay down its hefty debt. It was part of his agreement to take control of Tribune.

Tribune Co. had been looking to sell a 95 percent share of the Cubs and other sports properties for more than $1 billion.

Last month a person familiar with sales talks said the company was willing to sell a smaller share of the baseball team than it had initially planned because the credit crunch was making it difficult for buyers to obtain loans. Lenders are tightening the loans they give out amid a global economic slump.

The Wall Street Journal reported unnamed sources saying that Tribune was willing to accept bids for a 50 percent or even smaller share.

Tribune, which owns the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers along with television stations, has about $12.5 billion in debt, mainly from a complex buyout enacted by Zell to privatize the company. A $593 million principal payment is due in June.

A sale of the Cubs and Wrigley Field, the nation's second-oldest baseball stadium, would also include the company's 25 percent stake in a regional sports cable channel.

The team's sale must be approved by Major League Baseball.