* Ricketts supported by Tribune creditors - source
* Group now gets right to finalize terms to buy team
* Rival bidders could still up their offers
* Ricketts offer includes more cash up front than Utay's
(Updates that Ricketts has been selected, source says,
paragraph 1; adds details)
By Megan Davies and Ben Klayman
NEW YORK/CHICAGO, Jan 22 Tribune Co has
selected Tom Ricketts, the head of a Chicago investment bank,
as the lead bidder for the Chicago Cubs baseball team, after
receiving support from the bankrupt media firm's creditors, a
source familiar with the sales process said.
Ricketts' group will now get the right to finalize terms of
an agreement to buy the storied team, known as the "lovable
The process may not be over, however, as rival bidders
could still choose to raise their bids. That means a group led
by Marc Utay, a managing partner with New York-based private
equity firm Clarion Capital Partners LLC, may still have a
The sale would need approval from Major League Baseball
Earlier in the day, Tribune's creditors blessed Rickett's
bid, another source, familiar with the committee's key meeting,
The bids by Ricketts and Utay both valued the club at
around $1 billion, including about $800 million in cash, said
two sources familiar with the process.
Ricketts lived across from the Cubs' home park of Wrigley
Field -- also a part of the sale along with a stake in a cable
TV network -- while attending college and met his wife in the
bleacher seats there. He is chief executive of Incapital LLC
and the son of the founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp
Tribune had wrestled with the differences in the bids
submitted by Ricketts and Utay, whose group includes Leo
Hindery, who heads a private equity firm and previously ran YES
Network, the TV channel of the New York Yankees baseball team,
three sources familiar with the process said.
Ricketts' bid had a "modest" amount more cash up front,
while Utay's offered a slightly higher overall value, the first
source said. The collateral for Ricketts' borrowings is TD
Ameritrade securities, the source said.
A bid by Chicago real estate executive Hersh Klaff had
fallen behind the other two, sources said.
Tribune officials and a spokesman for the attorneys
representing the creditors declined to comment, as did Utay and
Ricketts. Klaff could not be reached.
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 has wide appeal due
to its history 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. When Tribune first put the Cubs up for sale, analysts
had said it could receive offers approaching $1.3 billion.
Summaries of the three bids were submitted to the Tribune's
unsecured creditors' committee, which met in New York on
Thursday to discuss several matters including the Cubs, two
Approval from the creditors is expected by the end of the
week and the aim is for Tribune, which owns the Chicago Tribune
and Los Angeles Times newspapers, to be negotiating with just
one party by Monday, the first source said.
Tribune has not submitted a winning bidder for approval by
Major League Baseball, said a fourth source familiar with the
process who asked not to be identified. An MLB spokesman
referred questions to Tribune.
Any winning bidder will need 75 percent of the 30 team
owners to approve the deal and that process can take up to two
months as baseball officials investigate the potential new
owner and the financial structure of the offer.
Tribune aims to negotiate final terms with a winning bidder
before early February and possibly have a new owner in place by
opening day in early April, Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney said
previously. But several sources and bankruptcy court experts
questioned whether the process can move that fast.
The Cubs open their season on April 6 in Houston and their
first game in Wrigley Field is April 13.
Separately, Tribune said on Thursday that it is
deregistering its debt securities. As a result, it said it will
no longer have to file quarterly and annual financial reports
or significant announcements with the U.S. Securities and
(Additional reporting by Robert MacMillan in New York, editing
by Matthew Lewis, Andre Grenon, Gary Hill)