Owner of the Dallas Mavericks and former dot-commer, Mark Cuban, has officially applied with the MLB to purchase those lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs are owned by the Tribune Co., who has been looking to sell the team since April after being acquired by billionaire investor Sam Zell (for what reason I don't know-- I think the Cubs are probably its only profitable asset). The Tribune reported yesterday that:
while Internet billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has expressed interest, most observers think Major League Baseball would balk at a potential owner as unpredictable and outspoken as Cuban.Statements like these make me think Cuban is not the Trib's first choice. The field of prospective bidders is pretty big, too. It includes the Ricketts family, whose fortune came from TD Ameritrade and other financial ventures, John Canning, who heads a private-equity firm based in Chicago, Chicago Wolves owner Don Levin, a partnership of Chicago attorney Thomas Mandler and businessman Jim Anixter, a partnership of restaurateur Larry Levy and Chicago business owner Craig Duchossois, and group led by industrialist and private-equity investor Thomas Begel. Some sources are estimating that the price of the Cubs may end up being anywhere from $600 million to as high as $1 billion.
I'm a huge NBA fan, and I've always enjoyed Cuban's courtside antics. I hope he gets to buy the Cubs. Cuban is truly a fan of the game, and he takes it seriously. You can tell it's not just money with him. He gets into fights, gets thrown out of games, yells at refs. He's got passion. He's not just a suit who signs checks--he's just like you and me.
But he's a savvy business man, too. This is a guy who is suing Don Nelson because Nelson allegedly used confidential, inside information to summarily dispatch his top-seeded Mavs in the first round of this year's playoffs. Cuban's not crazy, though: this is a counter-suit being used to respond to an arbitration claim Nelson filed against him for a compensation dispute-- as a legal strategy, it's a great (and perfectly rational) idea, even though it sounds kind of silly. Cuban is a fan and a serious dude.
Cuban will also have a ridiculously good fan base to work with in Chicago. Even though the Cubs suck so badly every year, Cubs fans continue to mindlessly adore them. The Dallas Mavericks were perennial losers, too, before Cuban came in and turned them into consistent winners. Because Cuban won't have to worry about the fan base, he will be able to concentrate on the players and management, where his experience turning things around will be most relevant. He'll open up his wallet, too. He'll renovate Wrigley Field, he'll install video games in the dugout, and he'll put air conditioners under all the seats. He'll spend big money to bring in talent (in the last major sport without a salary cap, no less).
All in all, the Tribune should suck it up and sell to him, for Chicago's sake.
I'm not really a baseball fan, but I might have to go to a couple Cubs games next year-- I bet they'll be fun to watch. Can you imagine what Mark Cuban would have done to poor Steve Bartman?