Bidding for Chicago Cubs team narrows - source

NEW YORK/CHICAGO Thu Jan 22, 2009 7:09pm GMT

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NEW YORK/CHICAGO Jan 22 (Reuters) - Bidding for the Chicago Cubs baseball team is being narrowed down, with one of the three remaining proposals a favored bid, a source familiar with the situation said on Thursday.

It was unclear which of the three bidders has been selected. However, the source said groups led by Tom Ricketts, chief executive of Chicago investment bank Incapital LLC and the son of the founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp (AMTD.O); and Marc Utay, a managing partner with New York-based private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners LLC, have moved ahead of Chicago real estate executive Hersh Klaff.

Tribune Co, which owns the Cubs, has wrestled with the differences in the bids submitted by Ricketts and Utay, whose group includes private equity chief Leo Hindery, three sources familiar with the process said. Ricketts' bid includes more cash up front, while Utay's offers a higher overall value.

One source said Ricketts appeared to be the favored bidder, but that could not be confirmed.

Tribune filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month due to its heavy debt load and the weak U.S. publishing sector. It put the Cubs on the block in April 2007, when Tribune agreed to an $8.2 billion buyout led by real estate magnate Sam Zell.

Bidders are anxious to take control of the team, which has not won a World Series title since 1908 but is nationally recognized due to its history as lovable losers and its national exposure on cable TV.

While the Cubs are not part of the bankruptcy, creditors must sign off on the deal because they will receive any proceeds, which analysts have said could approach $1 billion.

Tribune officials and a spokesman for the attorneys representing the creditors declined to comment, as did Utay and Ricketts. Klaff could not be reached. (Additional reporting by Robert MacMillan in New York, editing by Matthew Lewis)