Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts Articulates the Club's Future Direction

tom _ricketts

Thomas S. "Tom" Ricketts is chairman of the Chicago Cubs, and CEO of Incapital LLC, a Chicago investment bank that packages corporate bonds for retail investors. The son of Ameritrade founder J. Joseph Ricketts, Tom also directs TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation.

Forbes estimates the Ricketts' family wealth ($1 Billion),
consolidated under J. Joseph Ricketts at #371/ 400 on the Forbes 400
list. Tom reportedly makes only $171,000 a year in his role as TD
Ameritrade Director, but the money he makes from as CEO of Incapital LLC
is unknown. (and likely big money).

Ricketts co-founded the company in 1999, after working for the
Chicago Board Options Exchange and ABN Amro. According to Forbes,
"Incapital underwrites for several major U.S. corporations through its
InterNotesSM product platform."

In July 09, the Ricketts family reached an agreement with the Tribune
Company to purchase the Cubs, Wrigley Field, and 25% of Comcast
SportsNet Chicago for close to $900 million.

The deal was approved three months later, with Tom Ricketts board
chairman, over 95% ownership of the team, Wrigley Field and 20%
ownership of Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The Tribune retains 5%.

Let's look at where he's ended next.

ricketts

I caught up to Ricketts Wednesday at the Wrigley Field Stadium Club, for the unveiling of the new Cubs themed state of Illinois license plate. Joining Ricketts were Mr. Cub Ernie Banks and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

Ricketts, who earned both his undergraduate degree and MBA from the University of Chicago gave the media an update on the Wrigley Field public funding situation.

"Right now on the public funding side, we're just thinking through a
lot of what we need and talking to different people behind the scenes to
come up with a plan that would be a good plan for everybody" he said.

Ricketts knows his poorly-advised, unfortunately timed plea for
public subsidies to enrich his privately-owned ballpark has been the
biggest blunder of his 15-month tenure so far. Following the Cubs
Convention, he was quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times:

''I think we lost control of the dialogue a bit,'' he said of
public reaction to a plan that called for the Cubs to receive future
growth in revenues from the game-ticket amusement tax.wrigley

''From our standpoint, it was just a discussion with a handful
of people about what we could do for next year, and I think once the
media got a hold of it, it wasn't a fully baked solution. It was just a
discussion, and it ran through a bunch of people that didn't have much
of the information, and everybody had an opinion, and before you knew
it, it was just kind of a mess.

''Just to remind everyone in the room, what you read isn't
always the full story,'' Ricketts said, adding that funding efforts are
still going on behind the scenes. ''Of all the things in the first
year that if I had a re-do, I would probably re-run that one.''

What Ricketts wants is to upgrade Wrigley with revenue from that 12%
amusement tax, the highest rate in the nation. And the Cubs claim to be
the largest single payer into that amusement tax. Their goal is to
follow the lead of the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees, when it
comes to financing their stadium through such a revenue stream. (Of
course, the team's history on the field is about non-Cards and non-Yanks
like as possible).

Here's more detail on the type of plan he might employ, according to The Business of Baseball:

Franchises often negotiate with local municipalities to acquire
the development rights to property surrounding their proposed new
stadia. In MLB,
these developments are often called "ballpark villages". The promise
of ancillary development makes it politically more palatable to support
construction of a new ballpark.

As well, future tax revenues from the proposed surrounding
development are promised to pay off public debt incurred from
construction of the stadium. (aka Tax Increment Financing or TIF) And
often the franchises benefit from controlling the development rights to
these "ballpark villages". Tom Ricketts hopes to construct "ballpark
villages" adjacent to both Wrigley Field and the Cubs new home in Mesa
AZ.

So that's where we stand right now in dollars and sense, assets and
liabilities. But what about Ws and Ls, as we draw closer to spring
training.

"I thought the offseason was terrific, I felt we brought a lot of
momentum into the end of last season, and the players all felt it was
heading in the right direction," Ricketts claimed.

"We added three key pieces in Pena, Garza and Wood and the fact is
not only are they important players, but they're going to be important
leaders in our clubhouse," he added.

With the Chicago Bears just missing the Super Bowl, the Blackhawks winning last June's Stanley Cup, and the Bulls
in first place, expectations are rising to provide pressure on
Chicago's woefully under-performing MLB teams to start performing.

Does Ricketts feel this pressure?

""I really don't think of it as pressure  at all, I really do cheer
for all of the teams in the city. I think it's good for the city to have
teams winning in general. I would say last year you look at what the
Blackhawks accomplished and the excitement they created, and we hope
we'll be in the same spot they are, and create the same kind of
excitement," he responded.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He doesn't have a real nickname, but he is also a regular contributor to the Tribune's Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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