Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Green Zone

These no-shows will really embrarrass the Trib!Sure, the Bears are in first place. And, with the way the NFC North is shaping up, they can probably secure a playoff spot by beating the Lions this weekend in Detroit.

But, here at Ivy Chat, we are obsessed with all things finance. Crains' Chicago Business has a profile of the Bears' ownership that is very interesting. And, it seems according to some analysts, winning is all that stands in the way of a sale of the Bears:

The Bears franchise is worth an estimated $871 million, according to Forbes, which ranked it 10th in its annual survey of NFL franchise values. But as Forbes Senior Editor Michael Ozanian put it, "There's no way the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers should be worth more than the Bears."

Stephen Zucker, president of Chicago-based Zucker Sports Management, agrees, but says all the pieces are in place to boost the team's revenues and catapult it into the billion-dollar club alongside the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots.

"They have a real good lease deal with the new Soldier Field stadium, and a new revenue stream from seat licensing," says Mr. Zucker. "All they have to do is start winning."
Virginia McCaskey and her 11 children control 80% of the club and have always insisted they would never cash out their inheritance.

But Virginia is the glue. She votes the stock of her children as well as her own, even though the franchise is already in the hands of the children thanks to a generation-skipping mechanism that was designed to avoid estate taxes.

Some reports have suggested that some of the 11 Halas grandchildren might break ranks eventually. But the family has prepared for such an eventuality by structuring different classes of stock in such a way as to allow the family to retain voting control even if some of the clan opt out.

What's more, the McCaskey family has first right of refusal on the sale of any minority stock. Second refusal goes to the Bears' minority owners, Patrick Ryan, executive chairman of Aon Corp., and Aon director Andrew McKenna. They own 19.7% of the Bears — the portion that once belonged to Mugs Halas.

Sometimes, the most interesting sports news is no where near a box score.

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