© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

06/27/09 11:37 AM ET

Ricketts, Tribune closer to Cubs deal

Report says progress being made in new negotiations

CHICAGO -- Tom Ricketts may be back in the driver's seat to buy the Chicago Cubs.

The Chicago Tribune quoted sources as saying the Ricketts family and Tribune Co. have made "good progress" recently in negotiations to reach an agreement on the sale of the Cubs, Wrigley Field and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Talks stalled more than a month ago when the two sides could not agree on some issues, including how to value the team's broadcast rights.

"We're closing the gap," a source told the newspaper. "The attitudes are much more positive."

One reason talks have stepped up could be because the Tribune Co. reopened talks with another bidding group led by New York investor Marc Utay. The Ricketts family was selected as the winning bidder five months ago in a drawn-out auction that began with 10 offers.

Utay's group was one of three finalists in the Cubs auction, along with the Ricketts family and a group led by Chicago real estate investor Hersch Klaff. Utay's first bid fell short because it did not include as much upfront cash as the Ricketts' offer, sources told the newspaper.

The Ricketts family, which made its fortune through the online brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., made a bid of nearly $900 million and looked to finance half with debt and half by cashing in family-owned stock. Tribune Co. plans to keep up to 5 percent of the assets to help minimize taxes from the disposition.

The parent of the Chicago Tribune has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy since December. A Cubs sale would help reduce its $12 billion debt burden.

Because of the difficult economic recession, Ricketts took longer than anticipated to secure the debt. A disagreement over the broadcast contracts also led the family to consider reducing its bid by as much $50 million. Tribune Co. owns the broadcasts rights to the Cubs through its WGN subsidiaries and its stake in Comcast SportsNet, a regional cable sports network.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.