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Houston exec part of fifth group bidding for Cubs
September 8, 2008 / 5:10 PM / 9 years ago

Houston exec part of fifth group bidding for Cubs

<p>Chicago Cubs batter Kosuke Fukudome hits into a fielder's choice against the Philadelphia Phillies in the third inning of their National League baseball game in Chicago, August 31, 2008. REUTERS/Frank Polich</p>

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The fifth group bidding for the Chicago Cubs baseball team includes a Houston businessman who runs his own freight-forwarding company and was a star pitcher in college, a source familiar with the sales process said.

Jim Crane, the former chief executive of freight-forwarding company EGL Inc, is part of the group competing against the likes of Internet billionaire Mark Cuban and Tom Ricketts, CEO of Chicago investment bank Incapital LLC and the son of the founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp, for the Cubs and other assets, said the source, who asked not to be identified because the bidding process is ongoing.

Crane could not be reached to comment.

Final bids for the Cubs organization, an icon due to its national TV exposure and a history of being “lovable losers,” will likely be due late September or early October, with the target of closing the sale by year end, sources previously said. Bids are expected to top $1 billion.

Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times newspapers, put the Cubs assets on the block in April 2007 when it announced it would be bought by a group led by real estate magnate Sam Zell. It is selling the Cubs to cut debt it took on as a result of the leveraged buyout.

Zell said last month that five groups made it through the first round of bidding for the package of assets -- the Cubs, the team’s storied ballpark Wrigley Field and an interest in SportsNet Chicago, a cable TV network.

Other bidders include Marc Utay, a managing partner with New York-based private equity firm Clarion Capital Partners LLC, and Chicago real estate executive Hersh Klaff.

Crane, who had led an unsuccessful bid to buy EGL last year, reentered the freight-forwarding business in August with the formation of Crane Worldwide Logistics in Houston. EGL was acquired last month for about $1.95 billion by Ceva Group PLC, a unit of private equity management firm Apollo Management LP.

A source had previously said the fifth group included a person from outside Chicago with sports experience and backing from wealthy investors.

Crane was a star pitcher for the University of Central Missouri in the 1970s. In a 1974 college World Series game in what is now Division II, he struck out 18 batters, including 11 consecutive strikeouts, in a 2-0 win for a team that finished in fourth place. Over the years, he has donated more than $2 million to the baseball program at the school, which named its baseball stadium after him.

In addition to the five groups bidding for all three Cubs assets, four real estate funds are vying to buy only Wrigley Field.

The Cubs presently sit atop the National League’s Central Division, and have the best record in the 16-team league with a little more than three weeks left in the regular season.

They have not won a pennant since 1945, and have gone 100 years since winning baseball’s World Series.

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