Tribune may be exploring options

Tribune may be exploring options

CHICAGO -- The Tribune Co. apparently is talking to one of the other finalists regarding the sale of the Chicago Cubs due to the slow pace of negotiations with Tom Ricketts.

According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, the company has reopened talks with a group led by Marc Utay, managing partner of a New York-based private equity firm. Utay has Chicago ties. He grew up in suburban Glenview, Ill., and attended New Trier High School. His group was one of the three finalists in the bidding for the Cubs, but lost out to the Ricketts family.

Reuters first reported the talks with Utay on Thursday.

Tribune Co. spokesman Gary Weitman told the paper the media company is "assessing other alternatives" but would not confirm nor deny that it was talking again with the Utay group. He also said the company continues to have "an active dialogue with the Ricketts family with an eye toward reaching a definitive agreement."

"Our goal -- and responsibility -- is to pursue a transaction that is in the best interest of the company," Weitman told the Chicago Tribune. "We won't comment on specifics of any potential transaction."

A spokesman for the Ricketts family confirmed to the newspaper that the family remains in discussions and that "things are moving very positively."

Tribune Co. selected Ricketts as the winning bidder in January, nearly two years after the company announced that it was selling the Cubs, Wrigley Field and its 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

The two sides have been unable to reach a definitive agreement since they entered exclusive negotiations in January. The economy has made it difficult to finalize the transaction. Talks hit a snag over the value of the team's broadcast rights. Tribune Co. owns those rights through its ownership of the WGN-Ch. 9, WGN radio and Comcast SportsNet.

The deal is also complicated because Tribune Co. wants to retain a small stake in the franchise for tax purposes.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.