Thursday, June 01, 2006

Mr. Cuban, Is That You?

This morning on the Colin Cowherd Show on ESPN Radio, the affable host talked at length about Mark Cuban's interest in buying the Cubs and how he (Cowherd) believes Cuban could easily double the value of the Cubs in a relatively short time. According to, the Cubs are currently worth $448 million and Cowherd believes they could be worth $800 million - $1 billion in short order if Cuban were to take over the team.

The Cubs organization reminds me of the Yankees before George Steinbrenner purchased them from CBS. Just like the old Yankees, the Cubs are owned by a large corporation that runs the club almost as a hobby. The Tribune Company's main busniess is newspapers. They also dabble in television (the Food Network) and pro baseball. And just like CBS, the Trib Co. is willing to allow the club to flounder as long as it doesn't cost them too much. The numbers are significantly higher now for the Trib Co. than they were for CBS because of changing times, but the concept is the same.

Steinbrenner bought the Yankees for $10 million and turned them into perrenial winners. He spent the money necessary to field a winning team. He grew the business side of the organization to substantially increase revenues. He not only allowed bold moves by his GM, but practically isisted on it. The best players in the game are either Yankees or are rumored to be going to the Yankees. When it comes to baseball, the buzz always centers around the Yankees. Steinbrenner has done a masterful job with the Yankees and has built them into the most valuable franchise ($1 billion) in all of baseball.

The Cubs are a virtual money machine. They continue to produce huge revenues even though they have not won anything meaningful in nearly a century. For at least the last 20-25 years (however long the Trib Co. has owned them), they haven't seriously tried to win anything meaningful. Sure, the Trib has put a good face on things and has spent the money necessary to field a respectable team, but they've never been truly committed to winning. And who can blame them? Even while losing, the Cubs just kept producing money and the Trib Co. is satisfied with the results.

My question has always been, "What if..." What if the Cubs did win? What if the team became dynamic and exciting? What if they made bold moves and weren't always playing it safe? What if they were marketed and the fan base grew even larger? Wouldn't that just serve to increase revenues even further? Wouldn't that make the Cubs organization even more profitable and more valuable? If a knucklehead like me can figure this out, why can't the Cubs brass?

Which brings us back to Mark Cuban. He understands business and I'm convinced, would turn the Cubs into winners while increasing the value of the organization. Cuban understands that the best business strategy is a winning strategy. Even though the status quo may make you money, winning will always make you more money. Plus, the status quo won't last forever. Sooner or later, a business relying on the status quo is going to start to go backwards and will start to lose money. The Cubs may be an anomoly, but they're not completely immune from this fact.

Mark, if you're reading this, please contact Dennis FitzSimmons at the Tribune Company and start a dialogue with him. My understanding is that the company badly needs cash to pay a large tax bill. Make him an offer. The worst he can do is say "no." If there's anythnig I can do, just let me know.


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