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Tribune's Tumbling Stock Price Prompts Changes For Cubs
by Phil Bencomo
This is a repost from Cubbiepalooza, my old site. Reader rynox reminded me of it with this comment. It was originally posted on June 20, 2006, and some of the names, titles and dates are a bit out of date. So yes, I know Andy MacPhail is no longer with the Cubs.
CHICAGO As part of a plan to boost performance after a 38% decline in share price since the beginning of 2004, Tribune Co. has announced that the Tribune-owned Chicago Cubs, bought from William Wrigley in 1981, will undergo a series of changes to increase profits.
Earlier this year, the Tribune announced a plan to buy back a quarter of its shares for roughly $2 billion, despite pressure to forgo such an action from the Chandler family, which is the Tribune's second-largest shareholder. Tribune Co. has already enacted other plans for improved operations, including the "continued expansion of our Internet portfolio, the sale of non-core assets, and additional cost saving initiatives," said Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons, by selling WCWN-TV in Albany, New York, and WALT-TV in Atlanta.
Prompted by the success of NASCAR's uniform advertising and under pressure by Tribune Co. to maximize profits, Cubs President and CEO Andy MacPhail has revamped the team's uniforms to include dozens of ads, which are expected to generate millions of dollars in revenue. The Tribune has become so desperate for funds that it even approved a large ad for the Chicago Sun-Times, a rival newspaper of the Chicago Tribune.
"[The uniform] was a very tough decision for the organization," MacPhail said at a Monday morning presentation about the changes. "But ultimately, my job is to make money." When asked about the previous decades without such advertising and the tradition forged over those years, MacPhail declined to comment. Cubs pitcher Angel Guzman displays the new uniform in the photo.
MacPhail also revealed at the presentation that the Bleacher Box Seats, installed during the winter before the 2006 season, will soon feature a revolutionary bleacher beer system. The CEO described seats equipped with tubes for piping beer straight to the ticket holder. A special "pay-per-ounce" vending machine will be built into each seat and will be capable of accepting cash and credit cards. "You supply the cash, and we pipe the beer straight to your mouth," MacPhail said.
The costly off-season bleacher reconstruction put a damper on the Cubs' profits, but MacPhail views it as minor, short-term setback. "The increased seating capacity and ticket prices, along with the new beer system, will more than make up for the expense in the long run," he said. When asked near the presentation's end if the increased revenue would be channeled into team payroll, MacPhail emitted a brief, high-pitched scream before he pulled a 6-inch figurine of Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons from his pocket. He then raised the figurine over his head and began worshipping it, uttering prayers of forgiveness for such "demonic thoughts." Assistants quickly removed MacPhail from the stage and concluded the presentation.
Before MacPhail's absurd incident, John McDonough, the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Broadcasting, unveiled several new marketing campaigns focusing more on the "Wrigley Field experience" than the team's actual performance. Potential slogans include: "Come to Wrigley Field and See History in the Making," "Act Like a True American: Spend Money at Wrigley Field," "Don't Let Silly 'Sold Out' Signs Fool You; We Always Have Tickets For Games at Beautiful Wrigley Field Right Next Door at Wrigley Field Premium Tickets!" The first slogan fails to make any mention of just what history the Cubs will be making, and McDonough sidestepped questions about deceiving consumers.
But McDonough did say he expects the new campaigns to help the Cubs achieve that "most sacred and ultimate goal, prized by every owner, CEO, GM and Senior Vice President": "To sell out every home game, as well as our stadium tours on non-game days."
Though the Cubs are just a small part of the media conglomerate that is the Tribune Co., MacPhail hopes his contributions help the Tribune boost performance and keep the corporation together. "Regardless of the Tribune's predicament," he added, "I'm just looking to do my job well. And if I do say so myself, I think I've done it pretty well."