There were a lot of cheers in Chicago yesterday when Cubs fans heard that Mark Cuban was still in the running for the next Cubs owner.
And many in the industry were shocked that John Canning, the favorite, reportedly provided too weak of a bid to make the second round.
It has been reported that Cuban is now the top bidder at $1.3 billion. I don’t believe a fiscally minded Cuban is willing to pay that much for the Cubs, Wrigley and the stake in Comcast . (There’s only so much money in a sold out Wrigley and the fact that the Tribune owns WGN will stop the new owner from starting a full-fledged Cubs network.)
But I think that even if Cuban is not the highest bidder, he should be strongly considered because of his record as an owner. It’s not really a home run that someone who spends $1 billion on a team is going to automatically care about winning – especially the Cubs, who can easily sell out every game. But we know that Cuban does.
In the eight years before Cuban bought the Mavericks, the team was 189-435 (29 percent winning percentage) in the regular season. In Cuban’s eight full years owning the team, they’re 500-235 (68 percent), including their eight straight playoff appearances. Only the Spurs have a longer active streak of 50-win seasons (9 to the Mavericks’ 8).
So why does Tribune owner Sam Zell care? Because remember, Zell would still own the Chicago Tribune and WGN, which will broadcast about 45 percent of the Cubs games this year. And while I’m not sure that the Cubs winning would really sell that many more papers, there’s definitely a direct connection between the Cubs winning and ratings on WGN. That means there’s literally tens of millions of dollars in advertising at stake between a great Cubs team and a horrible Cubs team.
With the Cubs winning this year, in a bid to win the World Series for the first time in a century, Cubs broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet were up more than 50 percent in the first half of the baseball season. WGN experienced a rise of almost 30 percent.
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