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Sam Zell On The Cubs: Separate Them From Wrigley Field?

Wednesday, 10 Dec 2008 | 4:03 PM ET

Sam Zell came on CNBC's "Closing Bell" this afternoon to discuss the bankruptcy of the company he owns, the Tribune Company . Anchor Maria Bartiromo asked Zell some questions about the sale of the Chicago Cubs.Here's the transcript of the conversation.

Maria: Is the Cubs sale and timetable for the sale still on track or is that unchanged?

Zell: I have no reason to anticipate that the sale schedule will be any different that what we've previously announced. We did get three final bids, I believe it was last week. There was some speculation in the newspapers today that the filing had something to do with the fact that we got inadequate bids. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Maria: Some issues were raised that federal prosecutors say that...the governor's office threatened to withhold state assistance in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field. Is that true?

Zell: I think that the issue that we were addressing was whether or not the financing structure, which separated the ballpark from the team, might be beneficial to everyone involved, particularly in guaranteeing the viability of Wrigley Field for the next 30 years. That did not require "assistance," but it was a question of whether it made sense or not. We never really got to find out. We never really took it very far as to whether or not that was a viable alternative.

Maria: Even though (the Cubs are) not technically part of the bankruptcy, Sam, a Cubs sale would still have to be approved by a bankruptcy judge. So what is the impact of the Tribune bankruptcy?

Zell: I do not believe that the Cubs transaction will be impeded by the bankruptcy.

Maria: In any way?

Zell: I don't think so.

Now here's my take on all of this. The idea of separating Wrigley Field from the Cubs sale is one of the worst business strategies I've ever heard in my life. I strongly doubt that any one of the three bidders would buy the team without having Wrigley Field.

Any one in sports business knows that the ultimate nightmare is when a team's stadium is owned by someone else because you ideally want to control the whole experience at the park. Now let's talk about the bankruptcy. Money from the Cubs are going to the Tribune's creditors. That is indisputable. So how it won't impede the Cubs sale in any way is beyond me.

    • Media Money Blog: Zell on Tribune's Bankruptcy

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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