Ricketts introduced as Cubs' owners
'Legitimate fans' plan to bring World Series to North Side
CHICAGO -- Now, Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster and his teammates know who their boss is.
On Friday, the Ricketts family was formally introduced as the new owners of the Chicago Cubs, purchasing the team, Wrigley Field, and a share in Comcast SportsNet Chicago for $845 million from the Tribune Co.
The transaction ended a nearly three-year process. Pete, Todd, Tom and Laura Ricketts are now the board of directors, with Tom, 44, serving as chairman.
"It's a great feeling," said Dempster, who attended the news conference at Wrigley Field. "You have a personal attachment now, somebody you can shake hands with and say, 'That's my boss.' It's an exciting step forward for us. As players, now we have to do our best and do like [Tom Ricketts] said, be held accountable and put our best performance on the field for them."
The Ricketts family's goal is just like any other Cubs fan's dream: To win a World Series.
"I'll be honest, I think we have a team that can do it next year," Tom Ricketts said. "I'm not going to promise anything. I don't think that does us any good. The fact is, we have talent and this team next season can go all the way to the finish line. The key is, every season, to be able to stand up and in complete honesty say, 'We believe we have enough talent to get it done.' To do that and be sincere about it and consistent with it, you're going to get it done."
The Cubs have the longest streak without a championship, having not won since 1908. The Ricketts family made it clear one step in ending that is to upgrade the facilities at Wrigley Field and at their Spring Training site in Mesa, Ariz.
They also will spend the next year re-evaluating the so-called Triangle building, projected for land just west of the ballpark on Clark Street. Crane Kenney, who keeps the same duties but changes job titles and now is the team president, said the Ricketts family wants to consider what components are necessary for the project.
"The words I hear most often from the whole family is 'excellence and accountability,'" Kenney said. "You can't ask for anything more if you're on the players side, the business side that they're going to give us the resources and talent to really excel and measure whether we're performing up to their standards, which is really welcome news."
And because it's a family, and not a corporation, any profits will stay with the team. Kenney said the Ricketts have said they will reinvest every dollar in Wrigley Field and the Cubs.
"We've all had conversations about how much money is going back to Tribune and how much are the shareholders benefiting form raising ticket prices," Kenney said. "[The Ricketts] have made it very clear to me that all of the money stays here for the team development and the building, so the agenda is very clear."
Besides winning, the Ricketts emphasized their goal is to improve the fan experience at Wrigley Field. A few years ago, the family hosted a party on three rooftops outside Wrigley Field during a game, and Tom Ricketts recalled talking to his father, Joe, about what a great feeling it was and wondered aloud about the possibility of owning the team. That was before Tribune Co. put it up for sale in April 2007.
Laura Ricketts said having the Cubs win is "a matter of family pride," and Tom Ricketts acknowledged their shareholders now are the Cubs fans.
How did this family from Omaha, Neb., develop a love for the Cubs? Pete attended the University of Chicago in 1982 and lived near Wrigley Field. Tom joined him in Chicago, and they attended many games in the bleachers. Todd moved to Chicago in the late '80s and enjoyed the playoff run in 1989.
"You really get sucked in," Todd Ricketts said about the Cubs experience.
Laura lived on the South Side of Chicago but spent a summer living with Tom and Pete near Wrigley.
"Being immersed in Wrigleyville on game day with the sights and the smells and the fans and the energy, and just the whole feel -- the Cubs are bigger than us as owners," she said. "They're bigger than Wrigley itself. They're an emerging character. I think that being immersed in that, I had no choice but to become a Cubs fan. It was really overwhelming."
Pete apparently used to sleep outside the bleachers to get an early spot in line for tickets and the siblings did back up the story that Tom met his wife there.
"The great part about this family and that's different from all the groups [who bid for the Cubs] is their agenda is, we're fans -- we're legitimate fans -- and we understand what the fan experience is like,'" Kenney said. "Which means, they know what the restrooms look like, they know what concession lines look like, they know how hard it is to park around here, and they want to improve on all those things."
Tom Ricketts admitted he woke up Friday with some butterflies in anticipation of finally taking control of the franchise.
He had three messages for Cubs fans. One, they plan on improving the Wrigley Field experience so that generations can share in the unique magic that is the ballpark. They also recognize that Wrigley is located in a neighborhood, and plan on being good neighbors. But their primary goal?
"No. 1 is, we're going to win a World Series," he said. "We're very excited to get started and there's a lot of work to do. But everyone needs to know we're here for the long run, and we're here to win."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.