(Adds Tribune no comment in paragraph 6)
CHICAGO, July 21 (Reuters) - Real estate executive Hersch Klaff is one of the bidders for the Chicago Cubs baseball team in an auction that could top $1 billion, two sources familiar with the process said on Monday.
Klaff, president of Chicago-based Klaff Realty LP, heads one of at least 10 groups bidding for the team, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified because the sales process is ongoing.
Tribune Co, which also owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times newspapers, is selling the Cubs, as well as the team’s storied ballpark, Wrigley Field, and a stake in a regional sports television network.
The asset sales are part of a move to cut debt that the company took on when it went private in an $8.2 billion deal led by real estate magnate Sam Zell.
Bidders are anxious to take control of the team, which is in first place in its division and in contention for its first World Series title since 1908. The Cubs are nationally recognized due to its history as lovable losers and its national exposure on cable television.
Klaff could not be reached for comment, and a Tribune spokesman declined to comment.
The initial first-bid deadline, when groups submitted indications of interest, was on Friday.
Other groups submitting bids included John Canning Jr., chairman of Chicago-based private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners; Don Levin, owner of the Chicago Wolves minor league hockey team; Sports Properties Acquisition Corp HMR.A; and Tom Ricketts, chief executive of Incapital LLC, a Chicago-based securities and investment banking firm and son of the founder of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp AMTD.O.
Klaff Realty is a privately owned real estate investment company focused on acquiring U.S. office and distressed retail space. It has bought properties totaling about 27 million square feet with a value in excess of $1 billion, according to the company’s website.
Its current portfolio consists of about 850,000 square feet of office space and more than 24 million square feet of retail space in the United States, according to the website.
Four to five bidders are expected to survive the next round of the auction, with binding proposals expected shortly after the end of the baseball season.
The regular baseball season ends in late September, and the playoffs could stretch into late October. The sale could close by year-end or very early next year.
Tribune plans to keep a 5 percent stake in the team in a deal that could save the company millions of dollars in taxes, a source has told Reuters. (Additional reporting by Robert MacMillan in New York; editing by Derek Caney/Jeffrey Benkoe)
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