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Cuban's Out. Or Not.
by Phil Bencomo
The Sun-Times reported Thursday that Mark Cuban has "zero chance" of receiving the approval from MLB necessary to purchase the Cubs. But I'm not convinced.
Consider the source of the speculation: an anonymous "Major League Baseball source." The entire basis for the Sun-Times report is one person whose proximity to Bud Selig or even a single owner is unknown. One would assume that the Sun-Times trusts this anonymous source. Surely this source has proved accurate in the past, if his or her bold statement is enough to prompt a nearly 700-word article. Especially considering that no other relevant MLB sources are quoted.
What's that you say? Look at the lead paragraph?
"And sources close to commissioner Bud Selig sounded an alarm this week..."
Wait a minute. "Sources"? That's plural, right, not a typo? But I thought ... wait ... let me check.
First quote's attribution: "a Major League Baseball source said this week."
That's one source.
Second attribution: "That same MLB source promised..."
That's still one source.
Oh, I see it now. It's those darned copy editors, of course, missing that little mistake. It should read, "another MLB source promised," because we all know that the Sun-Times -- or any media organization, bastions of truth and justice that they are -- would never sensationalize the words of a single unattributed source in order to sell papers, boost traffic and revive a flagging beat that should now provide fodder for at least a week. It's not like newspapers are, you know, starved for attention or anything, ready to sacrifice integrity if it means printing more papers.
* * * *
Sarcasm aside, the story, if true, has interesting implications. Sam Zell, saddled with debt, must wring as much cash as he can from the sale of the Cubs. Mark Cuban reportedly bid more than $1 billion and remains interested in purchasing the club, says the Daily Herald. But what happens if MLB blocks a sale to Cuban, who could very well be the high bidder? Craig Calcaterra says a court may have to decide just that:
I have no idea if Mark Cuban still even wants to buy the Cubs, but if he does, he is basically being told that he's going to have to sue to do it. Or, more to the point, he and Sam Zell are going to have to team up to do it. Given that the only court to ever consider the matter has ruled that the anti-trust exemption does not apply to the sale of teams, such a suit stands a good chance of success in my view.
I don't know if, given the Tribune's current financial position, Zell is obligated to go down that road in order to sell to the top bidder. But from what little I do know of such matters, it wouldn't surprise me.
But all of this depends on Cuban being blocked by MLB, which is, whatever one report based on one anonymous source says, not a certainty.
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The Sun-Times added today that Tribune Co. has set a November 26 deadline for bidders. Zell's still looking for his billion, but the Wall Street Journal says it's slipping away -- along with Zell's plan to keep only a five percent stake in the team. No word on whether Cuban would be willing to buy a minority stake.