Buffett Watch

Warren Buffett could buy piece of Cubs, but don't bet on it

Warren Buffett is "interested" in buying a small piece of the Chicago Cubs, according to a blog post by Forbes sports business staffer Mike Ozanian.

He quotes a source "who traded candor for anonymity."

Warren Buffett prepares to throw the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park in Boston on August 9, 2009

Ozanian notes it's been reported the Cubs are thinking about selling minority, non-controlling stakes to raise money for renovations at 100-year-old Wrigley Field.

He writes, "Aside from Buffett, it is unclear how many other potential investors have reached out to the Cubs. But interest in the team, one of the few baseball franchises with national brand recognition, is expected to be hot, according to my source."

It certainly is possible Buffett could want to buy a small slice of the Cubs.

  • He's a long-time baseball fan who finds investing lessons in Ted Williams' batting strategy and might be interested in helping fix up the Cubs' historic ballpark.
  • The Ricketts family, the team's current owners, are from Omaha, Buffett's own hometown.
  • To help keep Omaha's minor league baseball team from leaving town, he bought a 25 percent stake in 1991. (He sold that two years ago.)

On the other hand, Buffett has repeatedly dismissed any suggestions he might buy a big league sports team like other members of the super-rich club who like being associated with their favorite team but aren't actually trying to make a lot of money.

In 2007, he told Murray Chass of The New York Times:

"Up until the age of about 20, I probably did think if I got rich I would buy a baseball team. Then I got rich, and I changed my mind....

"If I was in a major league city, who knows? But the answer is no, I will not be buying a major league team."

That was, however, six years ago, and Buffett has changed his mind before.

Most notably, after saying in 2009 that newspapers "have the possibility of unending losses," he had Berkshire buy a series of them, including the Omaha World-Herald.

His rationale is that community-oriented papers in small to medium-sized towns will be able to use their local news monopoly to withstand Internet competition. But last year he acknowledged to CNBC that he's buying newspapers, in part, because he likes them.

He likes baseball, too, so he may be thinking that buying a small slice to help preserve history wouldn't be that big a departure from his previous statements because he wouldn't be buying an entire team.

If it does happen, it would almost certainly be with his own money, not Berkshire's.

On the other hand, Ozanian's source might simply be trying to stoke some interest in the upcoming sale by suggesting Buffett is already in the mix of "hot" interest in the team.

No response yet to our request for a comment from Berkshire.