Mark Cuban: "The Lead Guy" in the Sale of the Cubs

I can think “of no one better suited to reverse the fortunes of the Cubs for the long term” than Mark Cuban. Boston Red Sox owner John Henry

Things have really heated up over the past week or so in the ongoing saga that is the sale of the Chicago Cubs. Specifically, the hype around Mark Cuban is really ramping up. Let's get caught up.

After whittling the list of wannabes from X down to 10 owners, the Sam Zell and the Tribune Company have now narrowed the list of potential purchasers of the Cubs down to 5. The remaining contestants in the Cubs beauty paegent are reportedly as follows:
  • Thomas Ricketts, president of corporate bond dealer Incapital LLC, whose father founded the TD Ameritrade brokerage.
  • A group led by real estate investor Hersch Klaff. He’s known for buying distressed properties, often from failing retailers.
  • Michael Tokarz, chairman of MVC Capital Inc. and onetime partner at the buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. Early in a finance career spanning more than 30 years, Tokarz worked at the old Continental Bank.
  • Sports Properties Acquisitions Corp., which has no operations but sold $200 million worth of shares to the public in January. The company intends to buy sports and entertainment businesses. It is run by New York taxi kingpin Andrew Murstein, and its chairman is former congressman and retired football quarterback Jack Kemp. Baseball great Henry Aaron is on its board.
That "dude" is now being reported as "the lead guy" in the negotiations as quoted by a fellow bidder. Cuban's bid (which includes the club, Wrigley Field, the stake in Comcast SportsNet, etc.) is reportedly the highest, weighing in at a hefty $1.3 Billion. The record for the sale of a baseball franchise is the $700 million John Henry paid for the BoSox in 2002. Not at all insignificant in that deal is the fact that Henry's bid was the third highest bid for the club and the widely held belief that Bud Selig and the other baseball owners orchestrated the deal.

Now the media vultures are circling. NBA Commissioner David Stern came out last week with public support of Cuban in his quest to purchase the club. Stories on Cuban purchasing the Cubs are popping up in media outlets and blogs everywhere. Even the New York Times got into the fold this week (great article at the NYT, worth checking out). But all the articles seem to have the same, tired message: Cuban is a loudmouth boisterous brat of an NBA owner who's constantly finding his way to the principal's office and acting as a persistent thorn in the side of his league and all its owners and who will get bullied out of MLB by it's stodgy straight laced owners. C'mon.

Time to move past this isn't it? We all know what Mark Cuban's done in the past. He is loud. He is outspoken. He has earned his share of fines ($1.7 M by the NBA, but none in the last two years). But he's also an absolutely fantastic owner who has an excellent chance at winning the bidding for the Chicago Cubs.

Since purchasing the Dallas Mavericks, Cuban has taken them from a perennial NBA doormat to one of the league's premier franchises and one whom any NBA player would want to play for due to the spare-no-expense treatment Cuban provides his players. Oh, and he's more than doubled the value of the franchise in doing so. What do you think that does to the value of the other NBA franchises?

Bottom line is this: if Cuban, despite any perceived flaws, bids in the $1.3 Billion or higher range for the Chicago Cubs, every other team's value jumps a minimum of $25 Million instantly. If Cuban truly wants to win this bid, which it really seems he does, he'll bid even higher. Higher to the point that he'll outbid any other bidder. And the higher he goes, the more money goes into every other owners pockets. Maybe he goes off one day and runs his mouth about an umpire. Why would the other owners care? That focus on MLB will earn them even more money at no cost to them or their team. Cuban, above all, will do whatever it takes to get his team to win. That's good for the players, good for the Cubs, good for baseball, and ultimately good for every other owner in baseball.

You can't tell me the owners are simply going to write this guy off because some don't like him. The owners may have tossed aside other potential owners in favor of those that were more well-liked in the past, but none of those other potential owners were Mark Cuban. None could bring what Cuban can, and I believe will, bring to the Cubs and MLB. Mark Cuban is great for the Cubs and great for baseball. Let him go.

Free Mark Cuban.

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