Zell Eases Thanksgiving Deadline For Cubs Bids

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By: E&P Staff

Tribune Co. is no longer requiring bidders for the Chicago Cubs and related properties to submit their offers by Thanksgiving, The Wall Street Journal reported.

That deadline is “now considered soft,” Journal reporter Matthew Futterman reported, citing two unnamed “people involved in the sale.”

The continued instability of the credit markets has made the process of assembling an offer far harder and time-consuming, the Journal said. It said bidders have concluded packaging an offer for the team, its landmark Wrigley Field venue, and Tribune’s minority stake in a local sports cable TV channel by Thanksgiving is “all but impossible.”

When Tribune Chairman and CEO Sam Zell engineered the deal that took the Chicago media giant private last December, he suggested selling the Cubs would be his first priority. At the time, it was thought the team could fetch $1 billion — money Zell needs to make some looming payments on Tribune’s $11.8 billion in debt.

But the sale was repeatedly delayed, first by efforts to structure a deal that would spare Tribune the enormous capital gains taxes it could face, and then by the credit crisis.

Most recently, several local news outlets have reported Zell is open to a deal in which he would sell just 50% of the team and its related assets — and get a far-smaller sum than envisioned last year.

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