Good luck with this “junk” bond of a Cubs team, Mr. Ricketts

Cubs fans, meet your new owner.

Cubs fans, meet your new owner.

CKOW congratulates Tom Ricketts & family on finally sealing their $800 million deal to buy a 95 percent interest in the Cubs (along with Wrigley Field and 25 percent of Comcast SportsNet Chicago).

By all reports, Tom Ricketts appears to be the kind of owner the Cubs need: a low-key, non-meddlesome type who wants a winner, likely will let the baseball people do their jobs and won’t be averse to spending money. A George Steinbrenner minus the bluster. And he represents an actual human face leading the team, as opposed to a monolithic corporation.

Ricketts’ long-running affinity for all things Wrigley has been well-documented: He’s a hard-core Cubs fan; He once lived in an apartment above the now-demolished Sports Corner bar across Sheffield Ave. from Wrigley; He met his wife in the Wrigley bleachers. Whether any of that will help get us a World Series here, who knows?

Ricketts’ family built a billion-dollar fortune in finance, founding broker TD Ameritrade. Tom Ricketts is CEO of Incapital LLC, a Chicago-based investment bank that’s hardly a Goldman Sachs when it comes to name recognition.

Incapital is credited with pioneering the underwriting of corporate bonds for retail investors. Ricketts’ isn’t exactly an attention-seeker when it comes to the media, but you can listen to him discuss the yield curve, bond ladders and credit spreads with CNBC’s Larry Kudlow here, in a June appearance on the network.

That kind of financial acumen could come in handy when it comes to fixing the Cubs, whose death march of a season (they’d lost 12 of 16 and were 8 games behind St. Louis in the NL Central going into Sunday) brings to mind some of the things that became household terms during Wall Street’s meltdown over the past year.

When it comes to the Cubs, you’ve got rough equivalents of subprime-mortgage securities in Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley (holding contracts signed at peak or ridiculously inflated values but who are now worth significantly less and are virtually untradable). You’ve got hitters “breaking the buck” (Aaron Miles and his shiny .181 batting average). Failed closer Kevin Gregg could only be described as “toxic.”

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The team overall? CKOW is assigning it a “junk” rating, of course.

But Ricketts is an expert at finding value and yield, so we are hopeful he can apply those skills with the Cubs. For starters, he should probably do little. Give general manager Jim Hendry one more year to reverse his mistakes from the past off-season, and give manager Lou Piniella one more year to prove he can still produce a winner. As a goodwill gesture, freeze all ticket prices for 2010. Beyond that, there’s the thorny issue of a much-needed major renovation of the Friendly Confines that has to be tackled at some point during the next decade.

CKOW would like to extend an invitation to Ricketts to drop by the roof and discuss some ideas, and also check out the corn (speaking of yield).

Good luck, Mr. Ricketts. You’re going to need it. Cubs Nation welcomes you and anxiously awaits the results.

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One response to “Good luck with this “junk” bond of a Cubs team, Mr. Ricketts

  1. Pingback: Midsummer crop report – High as an elephant’s eye « The Corn King of Wrigleyville

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