NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Chicago Cubs franchise, being sold by media group Tribune Co., has attracted credible interest from about 15 parties, and a deal for the baseball team and other assets is expected to top $1 billion, according to a source familiar with the situation.
First-round bids are likely due after the September 3 U.S. Labor Day holiday, with a winner expected to be picked in October. A deal is expected to close by the end of the year. The winner must be approved by Major League Baseball.
The three assets being sold -- the Cubs, the team’s landmark Wrigley Field stadium and an interest in sports cable network SportsNet Chicago -- could be sold as one package or split up, the source said.
In addition to the 15 credible expressions of interest, another 25 or so are being sorted through by the sellers, the source said.
To receive the confidential information about the Cubs needed to make an offer, a prospective bidder must fill out an application form that is evaluated by the sellers and submitted to Major League Baseball for approval.
Since Tribune put the Cubs up for sale in April, speculation has swirled over who could be bidding.
Mark Cuban, Internet billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, was reported in the U.S. media earlier in July to have submitted an application. Cuban did not immediately reply for comment on Monday.
Others who have been reported to be interested include Jerry Colangelo, CEO of basketball team Phoenix Suns who once ran the Arizona baseball team the Diamondbacks.
William Marovitz, a real estate developer and former state senator, whose wife is Playboy Enterprises Inc. Chief Executive Christie Hefner, told Reuters in April he had a bidding group for the Cubs and Wrigley Field, which was built in 1914.
Tribune, which is being taken private in an $8.2 billion deal led by real estate magnate Sam Zell, paid $20.5 million for the Cubs and Wrigley Field in 1981. Tribune declined comment.
Prices of baseball teams have been rising recently. A survey on Forbes magazine’s Web site dated April valued the Cubs at nearly $600 million, up 32 percent on the previous year. That survey puts the Cubs at the fifth most valuable team, with the New York Yankees Number one, worth $1.2 billion.
In 2002, an investor group paid $700 million, including debt, for the Boston Red Sox and a large stake in a regional cable TV sports network.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.