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Friday, June 3, 2011
MLB not troubled by Chicago Cubs' debt

By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com

ST. LOUIS -- Contrary to information in a published report, the Chicago Cubs and their ownership feel they are in financial compliance and stand in good stead with Major League Baseball.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday that sources said the Cubs were one of nine teams whose debt concerns MLB, along with the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Florida Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals.

"This is not a reflection of the Cubs' finances, but of the nature of the transaction and the debt structure required by the Tribune when the Ricketts family purchased the team from the Tribune Company," Cubs spokesman Peter Chase said on Friday. "The Cubs are on solid financial footing and enjoy a strong credit rating. Major League Baseball is fully aware of these unique aspects and the Cubs are in compliance with MLB."

MLB commissioner Bud Selig told the Chicago Tribune on Friday the Cubs face "absolutely no" consequences because of the nature of their debt and the franchise's history.

"I have no concerns, nor does anybody in baseball and all the financial people [we deal with]," Selig told the newspaper. "Nor, for that matter, am I concerned with the overall health of the industry. It is in very good shape. You can't judge anything by looking at this snapshot in time.

"Everything we've ever asked of them, they've done it and then more," Selig told the Tribune. "I'm unhappy that a story [like this] reflects badly on the Chicago Cubs under Tom Ricketts. There is no reason anybody should have economic concerns. ... It's so unfair to Tom Ricketts and the family. I normally don't talk about our business, but I can't let this go on. This is just wrong.''

The Ricketts family purchased the Cubs from the Tribune in October 2009. At that time, they paid $855 million for 95 percent of the team. The Tribune Company still retains 5 percent ownership.

According to major league sources, due to complex tax implications surrounding the deal, the Ricketts family put down 50 percent at the time of the purchase and are financing the rest of the cost.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.