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Target date for Cubs sale: Opening Day

Crane Kenney wants to see the sale of the Chicago Cubs done by Opening Day — but that may be a little overly optimistic.Chairman Crane Kenney wants to see the sale of the Chicago Cubs done by Opening Day — but that may be a little overly optimistic.

The Tribune Co. is in talks with three groups regarding the future of the Cubs, Wrigley Field and a stake in a local sports cable network: Tom Ricketts, the Chicago native whose family founded TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.; Chicago real-estate mogul Hersch Klaff; and the New York City group led by Marc Utay of Clarion Capital and Leo Hindery Jr. of InterMedia Partners. All three have been vetted to a certain extent by the commissioner’s office.

In an interview with AP, Kenney expressed hope the sale would be done by Opening Day, asking that Commissioner Bud Selig expedite the proceedings. That’s not entirely Bud’s call: a three-owner panel must first scrutinize and approve the sale, followed by approval by MLB owners. The owners meet quarterly, and meetings are going on now.

And there’s one factor that may delay any sale for months: the decision by Tribune Co. officials not to include the Cubs under the umbrella of its bankruptcy filing in 2008. Generally speaking, bankruptcy courts don’t like when you tear away desirable assets — like the Cubbies and Wrigley Field — from undesirable assets, like the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. And even though the Cubs and Wrigley aren’t part of the bankruptcy proceedings, any of the 1,000 Tribune Co. creditors can petition the courts to block the sale pending review by the bankruptcy court. All it takes is one creditor raising a fuss to slow things down.

So we’re not as optimistic about the Cubs under new owners by Opening Day, much less the beginning of Spring Training, as others predicted. Sales this size take a lot of time, and that time is stretched out when bankruptcy court is involved.

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