Ricketts officially now Cubs owners
Family closes on deal that gives it control of franchise
CHICAGO -- The list of Cubs owners includes one of the founding fathers of the National League, a sporting goods mogul, a chewing gum magnate, and a media company.
On Tuesday, the 133-year-old franchise was sold to a family of Cubs fans.
The Ricketts family formally took control of the team, Wrigley Field and 25 percent of Comcast Sportsnet after a financial closing on Tuesday.
The closing on the deal, valued at $845 million, completes a 2 1/2-year effort after Tribune Co. put the team, stadium and broadcast interest up for bid. Family members Pete, Tom, Laura and Todd Ricketts now assume control of the team, forming a board of directors. Tribune Co. will retain a 5 percent interest and also have a seat on the board. Tom Ricketts, 44, will serve as board chairman.
"My family and I are thrilled that this day has finally come and we thank [Major League Baseball] Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball owners for approving our ownership," Tom Ricketts said in a statement. "Now we will go to work building the championship tradition that all Cubs fans so richly deserve.
"It's fitting that this closing takes place during World Series week," he said. "Out of respect for the Fall Classic, and at the league's request, we will wait to introduce ourselves to the media and fans until this Friday, a travel day in the series between the Phillies and the Yankees."
The Ricketts family will hold a formal news conference Friday.
Tom Ricketts, chief executive officer of Incapital LLC, a Chicago investment bank, fell in love with the Cubs in 1984 as a fan in the bleachers.
The "for sale" sign was first posted outside Wrigley Field on Opening Day of the 2007 season, and at that time, Cubs officials said the sale would be completed at the end of the year. However, the deal was delayed as Sam Zell, a real estate entrepreneur, sorted through bidders and creative ways to finance the deal, complicated because of the economy.
Past Cubs owners have included William Hulbert, the first president of the National League, who took over the then named Chicago White Stockings in 1876. Albert Spalding retired as a player in 1877, and took over as the team's general manager after that season. Spalding, who would become chief of the sporting goods company of the same name, became the team owner upon Hulbert's death in 1882.
Spalding was followed briefly by James Hart from 1902-05, and sold the team to Charles Murphy for $105,000. Murphy was the owner the last time the Cubs won a World Series in 1908, but he also fired Frank Chance when Chance was in a hospital recovering from brain surgery.
Charles Weeghman purchased the team as part of a syndicate, which included chewing gum executive William Wrigley, who took control in 1919. He was succeeded by his son, Philip, in 1932, and by his son, William, in 1977. The Wrigley family ended its ownership of the team on June 16, 1981, when it sold the team to the Tribune Co.
Under the media company, the Cubs had 17 managers, including current skipper Lou Piniella, and won the National League East twice (1984, '89), the Wild Card once (1998), and the Central Division three times (2003, '07, '08). They have not reached the World Series since 1945, and have not won it all since 1908, the longest streak in professional sports.
The Ricketts family is well aware of that.
"Our family is thrilled to have reached an agreement to acquire a controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs, one of the most storied franchises in sports," said Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., on Aug. 21 when Tribune Co. signed a definitive agreement with the Ricketts family.
"The Cubs have the greatest fans in the world, and we count our family among them," the senior Ricketts said. "We look forward to closing the transaction so we can begin leading the Cubs to a World Series title."
The Cubs players have not let the fact that the team has been in a state of flux bother them.
"I just hope they keep trying to win -- that's the bottom line," third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "I hope they keep adding the pieces they need."
Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved the sale on Oct. 6 in a conference call.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.