The Cubs (and, for that matter, the White Sox) are not just a baseball team to most locals. They represent something larger. So it is with most sports teams. Which is why it's important to have professional sports ownership that can manage to maintain the public good -- keeping low-end ticket prices cheap, for example -- with the profit motives of the baseball team. For all the warmth and sentimentality surrounding baseball and the Cubs, the sport is a business. Expecting anything less is just being naive.
There are three men left in the Cubs sale, each of whom seems to have a relatively equal chance at making the purchase. The Chicago Tribune (along with Mouthpiece Sports Blog and Bleed Cubbie Blue) went in-depth on their respective bios. The verdict? Between Tom Ricketts, Mark Utay, and Hersch Kalff, Ricketts seems to be the likely people's champ:
Business style: Tom Ricketts wanted to make it on his own and never worked at Ameritrade, now TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. A market maker at the Chicago Board Options Exchange and finance executive before starting investment bank Incapital LLC.
Cubs connection: Tom Ricketts grew up watching the team on WGN. Once lived in an apartment above a bar across the street from Wrigley Field. Met his wife in the bleachers at a Cubs game.
That's a bio, right there. Of the other two, Utay -- who owns a stake in IMAX and wants to model the Cubs after the Boston Red Sox -- sounds like the better bet. Klaff, a South African that came to Chicago in the 1970s, is a wild-card; he has no history of baseball fandom (he prefers soccer and boxing) and little is known about his business style. Utay's Red Sox model is a good one for the Cubs, but there are plenty of Red Sox fans who feel the franchise has taken a turn for the worse since ownership decided to squeeze every penny possible out of Fenway Park.
Again, it's about balance, and it's hard to beat Ricketts' glossy story of quasi-self-made-manhood and his apparent love for the Cubs. After all, he met his wife at a Cubs game. What more do you want from the guy? Oh, right: $1 billion. And a few World Series.