Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Taxpayer Relief

It looks like Jim Thompson's stupid idea #4,647 is dead:

A plan to sell Chicago's Wrigley Field baseball stadium to an Illinois state authority stalled on Monday after Tribune, the ballpark's owner, clashed with the state over how to finance the deal.

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA) said Tribune believes the acquisition would require the transfer of sales and amusement tax revenue from Wrigley Field for the next 30 years.

The authority also said that Tribune thinks the deal would require new taxes or transferring funds the authority has already pledged to projects at another baseball stadium on Chicago 's South Side.

"ISFA cannot agree to this," said the group's chairman, former Illinois Gov. James Thompson.

Tribune said in a statement the authority's plan to buy and restore the field would violate the rules of Major League Baseball, and would not be in the interests of its employees.

That this deal is dead should be rejoyced by anyone who pays taxes to the State of Illinois. The scheme was needless from the beginning. There was no compeling public interest for the state to own the stadium. And it's pretty clear from this that the statements that there would be "no cost to taxpayers" was your standard political lie.

But there's another fun nugget buried in the story:

Without selling the team, the ballpark and more properties, the Chicago-based company risks defaulting on its debt.

This is the key to the whole sale of the team. Sam Zell has principal payments to make on the billions of dollars he borrowed. A good chunk of the cash he need to pay off the debt is tied up in the Chicago National League Ball Club. The more he can get out of the Cubs, the fewer dollars he needs to get by selling other assets.

What does this mean?

It means that the Cubs will be sold to the highest bidder. For all the stuff we hear about how this is a greased deal for the John Canning crew, they are still going to have to come up with, or at least match, the biggest offer.

Those of us holding out hope for a Don Levin or a Mark Cuban, all hope is not yet lost.

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