10/13 Bankruptcy judge gives Trib go-ahead

The Ricketts family moved one step closer to being handed the keys to Wrigley Field. A U.S. bankruptcy court judge ruled Tuesday that the Tribune Co. and Cubs can proceed with the team’s $845 million sale to the Ricketts family.

“The Ricketts family is pleased that they’ve made another significant step toward taking majority control of the Cubs,” the family said in a statement. “They look forward to getting to work on leading the team to a championship.”

The bankruptcy judge had already cleared Tribune Co. to sell the team and Wrigley Field. The Cubs filed separately for Chapter 11 on Monday to protect the Ricketts so creditors in Tribune Co.’s own bankruptcy case would have no claim against the company.

The Cubs cited assets of $1.42 billion and liabilities of $1.26 billion, but the team’s finances weren’t in question. The bankruptcy filing was done to ensure the team can’t be hit with claims by Tribune creditors because the Cubs weren’t covered when Tribune filed for Chapter 11 last December.

The deal was expected to be completed by the end of October. The sale has been approved by Major League Baseball owners.

Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy in December but the Cubs and related assets were left out of the case so it could continue the sale process. On Aug. 21, Tribune Co. reached a deal with the Ricketts family, which would purchase the Cubs, Wrigley Field and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Tribune Co. would retain 5 percent.

Tribune bought the Cubs in 1981 for $20.5 million from the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.

The sale price will top the record $660 million paid for the Boston Red Sox and its related properties in 2002.

The Cubs’ bankruptcy filing is not the first for a Major League team. The Baltimore Orioles were sold in a bankruptcy auction in 1993 after owner Eli Jacobs filed for Chapter 11. The same happened to the Seattle Pilots after the 1969 season. The new owners moved the team to Milwaukee and changed the name to the Brewers.

The Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL filed for Chapter 11 protection in May.

– Carrie Muskat

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