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Tribune Company (TRB) Rejects Offer for Wrigley

Tribune Co. (TRB) rejected the latest proposal from the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority to acquire Wrigley Field, saying that the new undisclosed offer was not workable from a team standpoint. “Any transaction transferring ownership of Wrigley Field to the public must satisfy the interests of Tribune, the Cubs and the public. While we appreciate the creativity of the latest ISFA proposal, it does not work from Tribune’s or the Cubs’ perspective,” said Crane Kenney, Cubs Chairman. “We’ll continue working with the city and state and at the same time begin the private process to explore interest in the team, stadium and our ownership interest in Comcast SportsNet.”

Former Gov. James Thompson told the Chicago Tribune late last month that he had put together a new proposal “that will allow ISFA to acquire and fully restore Wrigley Field, as well as add parking and neighborhood improvements, without using any public tax money, either state or local.” He also reiterated that the state was still considering selling partial naming rights as part of any transaction. However, the latest ISFA proposal was rejected this week by Tribune Co. executives who felt that it came up short.

Saying the players in the deal have signed confidentiality agreements, Thompson said people “from outside” are “sniping at” the deal. Tribune last week sent out the official offering for the team to Major League Baseball officials. They will spend the next several weeks looking over the proposal before sending it to at least six contenders for the team, which could fetch close to $1 billion, including the stadium.

Tribune has been trying to sell the team and ballpark separately in an effort to maximize the value of any deal to a new team owner. But with hundreds of millions of dollars needed to fix the aging structure, selling Wrigley separately appeared remotely doable at best. Thompson said that ISFA is still negotiating with Tribune Co., which also owns the Chicago Tribune.

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